A father charged with trying to kill his 2-year-old daughter after brutally beating her outside a Salmon Creek motel was legally insane at the time of the June 2016 attack, a judge ruled Thursday.
Kyle Stephen Brian Holder, 34, was acquitted of attempted first-degree domestic violence murder by reason of insanity following a two-day hearing in front of Clark County Superior Court Judge Derek Vanderwood. He will be committed to Western State Hospital for an indeterminate amount of time.
Holder repeatedly slammed his daughter, Trinity Compani-Holder, head first into the pavement of the Sunnyside Motel’s parking lot June 28, 2016. A number of people heard Kyle Holder spouting nonsensical beliefs about being Jesus and the devil being inside his daughter, according to court records and witness testimony.
A doctor from Western State Hospital who later evaluated Holder’s mental state determined he likely suffered from undiagnosed schizophreniform disorder and was having an psychotic episode at the time of the beating, court records state.
Trinity and her mother, Barbara Keller, were sleeping in their room at the residential motel, 12200 N.E. Highway 99, when Holder walked in, grabbed the girl and threw her out an open window onto a concrete walkway. Holder walked outside, picked the girl up and repeatedly threw her to the ground, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case.
A man in a neighboring room stopped the attack before authorities arrived by hitting Holder with a baseball bat.
Holder reportedly said he didn’t want to kill his daughter but believed he had to do so. “I had to hold my daughter and crush her head so she could go up to the sky,” he allegedly told responding law enforcement officers.
On Wednesday, Clark County sheriff’s Detective Fred Neiman Jr., the lead investigator on the case, testified that Trinity underwent trauma surgery to repair her fractured jaw. She suffered a broken nose and cheek bone, and had multiple skull fractures and brain swelling. A CAT scan showed that she suffered brain tissue damage. She was placed in a medically induced paralysis her first week in the hospital.
Neiman said Trinity suffered complications, including aspiration pneumonia and a lung infection. Doctors had to remove several teeth she swallowed during the assault. Doctors were concerned about her eyes, he said, and whether her vision would be impaired.
Trinity was discharged from Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland several months later. The last update he received from the girl’s mother in February was that she would have long-term, permanent disabilities.
A switch flipped
The motel’s former manager, Vicki Brooks, testified at Holder’s hearing Wednesday that he and his family had been staying there for about a month. She described Holder as a “quiet, nice guy” but that it was like a switch flipped on the day of the beating. “He was quite not with it,” she said.
People from St. Vincent de Paul had stopped by with food that day, she said, and Holder wouldn’t accept it because he believed it was poisoned. Brooks said she told Holder that St. Vincent de Paul was helping to pay his rent and wasn’t trying to hurt him. Then, at about noon, Brooks said, she heard a commotion.
“(Holder) was out in the parking lot with the little girl screaming up to the heavens, you know, to take the devil away from this child, take the devil away from the child,” she testified.
Trinity’s mother came out of their room, and a tug of war ensued over the child, Brooks said. That’s when she first called the police. But Trinity’s mother assured Brooks that Holder wouldn’t harm the girl, she said.
Later in the day, Brooks heard screaming in the parking lot. She ran outside and saw another tenant trying to keep Holder away from the girl with a baseball bat.
Holder reportedly said he wanted to crush the girl’s skull to take her up to the sky. Brooks said she assumed Holder was referring to heaven. He then grabbed the girl one more time and slammed her head first into the pavement, she said.
“It was, I was just going, ‘Oh my god.’ It was horrific. It was horrific,” Brooks testified. Trinity’s mother came outside and lay the girl across her lap. Brooks said she thought she was dead, because she wasn’t crying or moving.
Law enforcement arrived and used a Taser on Holder, Brooks said, but it appeared to have little effect.
Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Duncan Hoss testified that when he responded to the scene, he saw Holder being held down on a stretcher. Hoss handcuffed him to the stretcher while medical personnel put him in soft restraints. A hysterical Holder struggled against the restraints while rambling about being Jesus and being able to fix his daughter if they would bring her to him.
EMT Michael Allaway with AMR said that when he responded to the motel, Holder was sitting handcuffed on the ground, with no shirt on, covered in dried blood. The Taser darts were still in him. He appeared to be manic, Allaway testified.
Holder reportedly made several nonsensical statements while being transported in the ambulance, some of which had religious undertones.
Allaway read a paragraph from Holder’s chart: He was “shouting constantly about being Jesus, going to Pluto, and states ‘I didn’t want to have to kill my baby girl,’ but stated, she was the serpent, and he had to destroy her.”
Many of Holder’s statements referred to voices or someone telling him to do it, Allaway said.
Danger to others
Neiman Jr. testified that toxicology testing for Holder completed at the hospital and Washington State Patrol’s crime lab were negative for illicit drugs and alcohol.
Medical records that Neiman obtained listed various statements Holder allegedly made at the hospital: “I am Jesus.” “I can recite the entire Bible.” “Everyone is corrupt.” “It was a snake. I had to kill it so the rest of us can survive.” “I can bring her back.” “They were pumping methamphetamine into the room.”
Neiman interviewed Keller, who said that Holder was in a good mood that day until receiving food from St. Vincent de Paul. He became paranoid and started preaching from the Bible. He allegedly said that he thought there was methamphetamine in the food and in the motel room’s water, and a camera in the TV.
Neiman also spoke with Holder’s mother, Deborah Holder. She said she talked to her son earlier that day over the phone. He asked her to pray with him and initially sounded frantic. Holder allegedly told her there was evil in his child, and he had to get the evil out so she could go to heaven. Deborah Holder told Neiman she thought her son suffered from undiagnosed paranoia, he testified.
Judith Kirkeby, a doctor at Western State Hospital who evaluated Holder, testified Thursday that since the attack, Holder has exaggerated his mental health symptoms, but she believes he was legally insane at the time of the incident. She determined that his risk to re-offend or to harm others is above average, and she said she believes he should be supervised by the court. Another psychologist, Kenneth Muscatel, an expert for the defense, largely agreed with Kirkeby’s assessment.
In her closing argument, defense attorney Christina Phelan said that based on the evidence presented and opinions from psychologists, it’s apparent Holder was legally insane at the time of the incident. She argued, however, that he should be held in a less restrictive environment than Western State Hospital, though she and the psychologists who testified were unaware of alternative care.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Colin Hayes agreed that the evidence shows Holder was legally insane, but he argued that Holder would pose a danger to others if he were not to be committed to the state hospital.