Four and One-Half Years For Murder


This story was submitted by former Marion County Prosecutor Stephen Dingle.

On September 22, 1994 officers from the Salem Police Department discovered the butchered body of Mary Jane Holmes less than a block from her south Salem home. Ms. Holmes had been stabbed multiple times in the back, neck and chest. The medical examiner determined that she had bled to death, and that some of the stab wounds had been inflicted after she had died.

Detectives began an investigation into her death, and suspicion immediately focused on her sixteen year old son Jonathan "Dominic" Holmes, with a date of birth of March 23, 1978. Dominic told the police he knew nothing about his mother's death, and even went so far as to point the finger at his stepfather. Several factors, including the fact that the stepfather was on the east coast at the time of the murder, led police to focus their attention on Dominic.

The investigation revealed the following sequence of events: On the evening of September 21st, Dominic went for a walk with his mother. Unbeknownst to Mary Jane, Dominic had decided to slaughter her that night. He concealed a large butcher knife on his person for the walk. During the walk, Dominic suddenly began stabbing Mary Jane, and continued to stab her over and over, even after she was dead.

After murdering his own mother, Dominic returned to the family home. He calmly called school chums and attempted to establish an alibi. He then drove the family car into the country and disposed of the weapon. He then returned and placed his own bloodstained clothes in his school backpack. During his ride to school the next day, police and fire vehicles passed him on the way to his mother's dead body; Dominic continued to make small talk with his friends. Once he arrived at school, Dominic threw his bloody clothes in a school dumpster.

Police executed a search warrant on the Holmes residence. Examination of the house revealed blood throughout, including blood on a pair of Dominic's shoes soaking in bleach. DNA testing of the blood found in the house confirmed that it was Mary Jane's. Once this confirmation was obtained, Dominic was arrested on October 5th, and lodged in the local juvenile detention facility.

Through his attorney, Walter J. Todd, and through his family, Dominic continued to maintain his innocence, expressing concern that because of his false arrest a dangerous killer remained on the loose.

Since this crime occurred before Measure 11, the Marion County District Attorney's Office was required to file a motion to have the case transferred, or Dominic waived, into adult court. After a four day hearing, juvenile referee Connie Haas denied the District Attorney's request, and ordered that Dominic be treated as a juvenile. Under the law as it existed, the District Attorney's Office could not appeal the decision. Minutes after the court's ruling Dominic admitted "causing" his mother's death. He was sent to McLaren School for Boys the very same day. He never offered any explanation for the slaughter of his own mother.

His sentence? He was released from the juvenile facility March 25, 1999. Where is he today? Nobody knows. Because he was allowed to remain in the juvenile system, he is not required to report to a parole officer nor to complete mental health treatment, he can possess weapons, and he can even state on an employment application that he has never been convicted of a crime.

Had this happened after Measure 11 was enacted, he would have been automatically remanded into adult court and prosecuted as an adult. His sentence? Life with a mandatory minimum prison term of 300 months (25 years) followed by post-prison supervision for the rest of his life.

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