Nicolas Holzer — alleged to have fatally stabbed his parents, sons, and family dog on Monday night in their Goleta-area home — was charged on Wednesday with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony animal cruelty. Holzer, 45, also faces special allegations of using a deadly weapon and committing multiple murders. His arraignment was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon but was postponed to September 9 at the request of his defense attorney, deputy public defender Christine Voss. Holzer appeared in court in custody and will remain behind bars without bail at the Santa Barbara County Jail, where he has been placed in a safety cell.
District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced the charges against Holzer earlier in the day. “Our sympathies go out to everyone in our community,” she said. “There are very few answers,” Dudley continued, adding that Holzer’s “mental health issues” will be considered by her office. If found guilty of the crimes, Holzer could face life in prison for each murder charge; Dudley said she hasn’t decided yet whether she will pursue the death penalty. Deputy district attorneys Ron Zonen and Von Nguyen will prosecute the case.
Dudley’s office has reached out to the boys’ mother, who appeared in court on Wednesday morning with her boyfriend, a baby, and a female companion. Dudley said that her office was due to receive custody records on Wednesday.
Voss — who asked Judge Thomas Adams to order the jail to have Holzer’s psychiatric health and medications evaluated — said it was “hard for me to say right now” how Holzer was holding up. She declined to comment on what medications Holzer may be taking or whether he is aware of the charges against him. She said she requested the arraignment’s postponement to allow her time to review 12 pages of reports and further communicate with the District Attorney’s Office over what “could be a capital case.”
Late Monday night, Holzer reportedly used kitchen knives to first kill his father, 73-year-old William, before stabbing to death his sons, 13-year-old Sebastian and 10-year-old Vincent, and his mother, 74-year-old Sheila. Holzer ended his alleged spree by killing the family’s Australian shepherd. Sheriff’s deputies responded to the house on Walnut Park Lane after Holzer called the police to turn himself in; all the victims were declared dead at the scene and Holzer was arrested without incident.
Sheriff Bill Brown said Holzer told authorities it was his “destiny” to murder his family — whom he lived with in the home for about seven years — and there wasn’t yet any indication that a particular event spurred Holzer’s actions. Holzer, who doesn’t have a criminal record, reportedly had sole custody of his children, students at Foothill Elementary and La Colina Junior High.