Nicolas Holzer walked into Judge Brian Hill’s courtroom Friday morning already dead certain he’d be spending an eternity in hell. When Holzer left Hill’s courtroom, he departed with the additional knowledge that he’ll be spending the rest of his days on Planet Earth behind bars in a California state prison.
Four years ago, Holzer — then in the throes of psychotic delusions — stabbed to death his parents, William and Sheila Holzer, and his two young sons — Sebastian and Vincent. Having previously determined that Holzer was legally sane at the time of the killing, Judge Hill had little discretion in what sentence he could impose. Accordingly, Hill sentenced Holzer to four lifetimes behind bars without the possibility of parole — one lifetime for every person he killed. In addition, Hill also ruled Holzer had to serve eight years for killing the family dog and using a knife in the commission of the killings. Lastly, Hill ruled Holzer had to pay $10,000 in restitution and imposed $650 in various administrative fines.
Holzer, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit with his hands manacled in front of him, said nothing and betrayed no reaction. His criminal defense attorney, Christine Voss, described Holzer, now 49, afterward as “dead inside.” During the sentencing proceedings, Voss — her voice cracking with emotion — lamented that “the system failed the entire Holzer family.” Had Holzer’s mental illness been treated sooner, she’d argued earlier, Holzer’s bloody outburst on August 11, 2014, could have been averted.
Even with Holzer’s quiescent demeanor, five court bailiffs remained on high alert throughout the sentencing proceeding. Two stood sentry from the rear in the center aisle of the courtroom, hands on their guns; three flanked the front, two on one side and one on the other.
Holzer’s former wife, Juanita Holzer, submitted a statement that was read by Joan Fairfield, who provides victim protection services for the District Attorney’s Office. “Nicolas Holzer, he took my hopes and opportunities to see my little ones to grow,” she stated. “He take from me the opportunity to be with them in their graduations and seeing them get married and their children and form their families. And to tell them how proud I am of them and to hug and kiss and tell them how much I love you and I miss you, Sebastian and Vincent.” Holzer’s former wife speaks limited English and lost any custodial rights to her two sons after a bitter divorce and custody battle that concluded in 2007. Although Holzer had been hospitalized three times for psychiatric problems, twice involuntarily, and had attempted suicide two times, he had been awarded sole custody.
Earlier this summer, Judge Hill ruled Holzer was legally sane — meaning he could tell the difference between right and wrong at the time of the killing. But Friday — as he had previously — Hill acknowledged Holzer suffered from serious mental illness. He expressed concern Friday that Holzer be sent to a prison facility where he would get psychiatric treatment. Holzer’s attorney, Voss, cautioned that prison hospitals tend to be populated by inmates most inclined to act out dangerously and that finding a safe space for her client might prove challenging.
Throughout the sanity phase of the trial, it came out that Holzer believed he was the most evil person on the planet and was responsible for atrocities that took place well before he was even born. To ensure that his family did not suffer the same eternity in hell that he was convinced was his destiny, Holzer believed, he had to kill his parents and children.