WEATHER »
Nicolas Holzer

Paul Wellman (file)

Nicolas Holzer


Did Nicolas Holzer Know Right from Wrong?

Judge Hill Considers Killer’s Sanity


Nick Holzer was too deeply psychotic to know right from wrong the night he killed his parents, two sons, and the family dog, testified psychiatrist Howard Babus at Holzer’s sanity hearing this week. Babus, an expert witness called by defense attorney Christine Voss, argued that Holzer is not guilty by reason of insanity. Babus worked 32 years for the county’s Psychiatric Health Facility, where he encountered Holzer in 1998 after he’d been placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold for three nights. At the time, Babus said, Holzer was all but catatonic after having stabbed himself in the abdomen with a kitchen knife. On a mental-illness scale of 1 to 10, Babus said he’d rank Holzer a 9.5 at the time, the same number he gave after listening to Holzer’s taped interview by Sheriff’s Office deputies hours after the killings in 2014.

Holzer had cycled in and out of deeply delusional and psychotic states since his first breakdown in 1995, Babus said. Since then, he has suffered from profound delusions that he was one of the most evil beings on the planet and that he would spend an eternity in hell. According to Voss, Holzer believed he needed to kill his family to save them from the damnation awaiting him. That Holzer lacked the capacity to know right from wrong morally would be the key finding for Judge Brian Hill to rule Holzer not guilty.

Prosecuting attorney Ron Zonen pressed Babus to explain how someone so deeply psychotic could have gone 10 years without psychiatric intervention or medication without incident, as was the case with Holzer between 1999 and 2009. In that time, Holzer worked five years at Raytheon, got married, had two children, got divorced, and quit his job. Zonen stated Holzer’s ex-wife would testify she never observed signs of mental illness during their years together. He noted that Holzer had been awarded sole custody of the two children only after he’d been screened by a court-ordered psychologist. Babus acknowledged that Holzer’s trajectory of mental illness was unusual, but hardly impossible.

To submit a comment on this article, email letters@independent.com or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email tips@independent.com.



event calendar sponsored by:

Edison Company Counter-Sues County and City

Claims they were aware of risks underlying original lawsuit.

Man on the Run Hits Car and Two People

Driving away from attempt to serve felony warrant, injures woman and child, say police.

Heroin Dealer Sentenced to 12 Years

Oxnard resident will serve time for heroin sales in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, among other charges.

New York Times,’ and Many Others, Name S.B. a Top Travel Destination

'AFAR,' 'Travel + Leisure,' and 'Conde Nast' all feature the region for 2019 trips.

A Good Rain Finally Falls

Gibraltar Dam spills, Lake Cachuma is on the rise.