The outcome of Dean Holmes sentencing hearing Friday was never in question.
The 40-year-old Spanaway man was going to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing his wife Kristi, 41, and the couple’s 11-year-old daughter, Violet, earlier this year. His guilty pleas to two counts of aggravated murder in the first-degree and Prosecutor Mark Lindquist’s decision not to seek the death penalty guaranteed that.
Still, there is a certain amount of formality and ceremony that attend the dispensing of justice in this nation, and so Holmes was brought before Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Tollefson to hear pronouncement not only of his sentence but the thoughts of those who loved his wife and child.
Holmes gunned them down Aug. 28 — Kristi in their bed, Violet later in the backseat of the family car — because, as he told detectives, he was afraid his financial troubles and lies were going to drive his wife and daughter away from him.
It was a thin, illogical excuse, and one that was not lost on Kristi Holmes’ parents and brother.
Andrew Hamilton, the victim’s brother, in a whisper barely audible in the courtroom, said Holmes had stolen “my first best friend” and lamented that Holmes had not sought help from him or someone else instead of descending into darkness.
“I would have given anything … if it would have stopped what happened,” Andrew Hamilton said.
Kristi Holmes’ father, Lee Hamilton, in a clear, loud voice, called Holmes “a monster,” who betrayed his duty as a husband and father and his responsibility as a man by killing those he loved.
“The man who supposed to be in front of the bullet was the man behind the bullet,” Hamilton said.
Then came Kristi Holmes’ mother, Barbara Holmes. In a voice tinged with a Texas accent, she talked about all things she’d never see because of Holmes’ selfishness, including Violet walking down the aisle as a bride and Kristi Holmes joking in the kitchen with her father while preparing Sunday dinner.
“The callousness of this horrible act has ruined my life,” she said.
Holmes wept throughout their commentary, sometimes bending over double as the words fell on him.
His attorney and a family friend then spoke a few words on his behalf.
Defense attorney Mary K. High acknowledged her client did an awful thing but said his acts were not “the sum total of this man.”
“He stepped up early and took responsibility for his actions,” High said.
Holmes, who considered suicide after killing his wife and daughter but couldn’t follow through, then was given a chance to speak.
He said he misses his wife and daughter and is wracked with guilt.
“I failed as a husband and a father, and I have to live with that pain for the rest of my life,” Holmes said. “I’m so sorry.”
Then he was led away to face his judgment and his conscience until the day he dies.