Kathleen Holt pleaded guilty in Starke Circuit Court this afternoon to murdering her boyfriend at the home they shared in Knox, shooting him to death as he lay sleeping in his bed in the afternoon with a handgun. The sentence was to be argued as per the plea agreement, and Judge Kim Hall heard witnesses from the state and arguments from both the defense and prosecution to assist him in deciding on an appropriate sentence from a minimum of 45 years to a maximum of 55 years.
The state called three witnesses, including Brack Rowe, chief deputy at Starke County Sheriff’s Department, who was the first to arrive on the scene after Holt called 911 to report she had shot 51-year-old Ron Worker in the chest accidentally. Rowe said, however, that she had told him that she shot Worker to “see how it felt,” and she was taken into custody.
The state also called Chief Detective Kenneth Pfost to the stand, and the prosecutors played a recording of the 911 call made by Holt following the shooting, in which she said it was an accident. She told dispatch in the recording that she was playing with the handgun and accidentally shot him in the chest. Pfost, however, said she told him during questioning later that she had gone to wake the victim up to watch television, but the gun which she had in her hand at the time had accidentally gone off and fired a round into his chest.
Pfost said the autopsy determined that Holt had been standing near the doorway of the bedroom, a few feet away from the bed, when the ultimately fatal shot was fired.
Another recording was also played, this one a voicemail Holt had left to a friend prior to calling 911 in which she said she had shot Worker and was going to shoot herself after calling police. She also made another phone call to Worker’s sister informing her that Holt had shot Worker and was going to shoot herself.
Lanette Zunicka, the victim’s sister, was also called as a witness for the state and said Worker had told Holt she had 30 days to leave the residence after she refused to take him to the doctor when he was in pain due to back problems. Zunicka said it was eight days after she had been given that deadline to leave that she had shot Worker.
A victim impact letter was read by the state and Zunicka also gave her impact statement, tearfully explaining how her brother was a “caretaker” and was killed because of his gentle nature.
Judge Hall ultimately sentenced Holt to 55 years after finding that aggravating factors in the case outweighed mitigating factors. He said shooting a man to death in his bed, asleep in a home they shared, was an aggravating factor, as well as the fact that she made two phone calls prior to calling 911 to report the incident and request emergency medical assistance. On top of that, she showed no conscience because she said she shot him to “see how it felt,” and she fails to appreciate the value of human life.
As part of the plea agreement, Holt waived her right to appeal and must submit to a DNA cheek swab. She was credited with 204 days served.