On Tuesday, a Dakota County jury found 37-year-old Roger Earl Holland guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his wife and unborn child after police found he researched stair-related injuries online.
Holland was also convicted on two counts of second-degree murder in the death of Margorie Ann Holland, who was 15 weeks pregnant when her husband called police to say he found his wife in cardiac arrest at the bottom of a flight of stairs on March 7.
Under Minnesota law, it is not necessary for a jury to find that a person intended to kill an unborn child or did so with premeditation in order to convict that person of first and second-degree murder in the death of a fetus, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom explained. Rather, prosecutors need only show that the defendant intended to kill the child's mother and premeditated the act.
"We are pleased to have brought Roger Holland to justice for this senseless and violent crime that took the lives of Margorie Holland and her unborn child," Backstrom said. "Our deep sympathy is extended to the family and friends of Margorie Holland for their great loss."
Police responded to the couple's apartment, located on 157th Street West, and Holland told investigators he had gone to buy breakfast and returned to find her wrapped in a blanket, unresponsive at the base of the steps.
Prosecutors, however, pointed out that police noticed scratches on Roger Holland's face and neck. Furthermore, the autopsy conducted on Margorie Holland's body revealed strangulation as her official cause of death, and bruises and cuts were seen on her head, face, hands, legs, ankles and feet.
Roger Holland told police his wife fell down the stairs, but analysis of his web history showed he had specifically searched for "if you pass out and fall down a flight of stairs can you break your neck, can your neck be broken if you are" on the day before her death.
The couple, both members of the Texas National Guard, had been married for three years and only moved to their Apple Valley neighborhood in December of 2012. Roger Holland told investigators the two had a good relationship, but text messages revealed the two fought over finances and Margorie Holland planned to divorce her husband.
The jury deliberated for 10 hours following the two-week trial before returning their verdict. Holland was immediately sentenced to two life terms in prison.
After the verdict was read in court, members of Margorie Holland's family spoke out to say that although they mourn the loss of their loved one and the anticipation of welcoming a new life, they hope Margorie's memory and voice will live on as they advocate against domestic violence toward women.
"As advocates working to prevent domestic violence will tell you, the most dangerous time is when a wife or girlfriend finally takes action and end a marriage or relationship. That, unfortunately, is exactly what occurred here," Backstrom said. "We see far too much domestic violence in the Twin Cities and across our state -- and throughout our nation. We must all dedicate ourselves to look for ways to prevent it."