Hollie sentenced to death in Sept. pawn shop killing

Published 5:10 pm Wednesday, March 17, 2010

HAZLEHURST – As convicted murderer Erik Hollie left a CopiahCounty courtroom after being sentenced to death on Tuesday, membersof his family shouted, “We love you, Erik.”

On the other side of the courtroom, the family of his victim,Denmon Ward, held hands and wiped away tears, seemingly relievedthat the ordeal that began on Sept. 8, 2009, was over. UnlikeHollie’s clan, they had not been able to tell their father andhusband they loved him before Ward was killed by Hollie thatTuesday afternoon in Wesson Pawn & Gun.

“We last saw him Sept. 11 in his casket, and that was our lasttime to say goodbye, and thank you for your wonderful life,” saidWard’s wife Ursula Ward. “The impact of this will change my lifeforever. Erik Hollie has taken something from us that cannot bereplaced.”

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Hollie, 24, pleaded guilty to capital murder in Ward’s shootingdeath, and Tuesday’s proceedings were in order to allow the jury tosuggest a sentence. The jury’s options included life in prison orthe death sentence.

The jury considered facts from forensic pathologist Dr. BruceLevy, who testified that Ward was hit by six bullets, including oneshot to the head that appeared to have come when he was alreadylaying face down on the ground, and Chief Investigator MiltonTwiner, who said Hollie never showed any remorse for thekilling.

After the jury received instructions for deliberations, Hollie’sattorney, M.A. Bass, asked Circuit Judge Lamar Pickard to allow hisclient to address the panel.

“Let the Lord deal with me,” Hollie said. “Sentence me todeath.”

Copiah County Chief Deputy Tony Hemphill said it was rathershocking to see Hollie ask the jury for the death penalty.

“It was very unorthodox, and he got what he asked for.Regardless of how a person he is or how he thinks, you still haveto use all your resources,” Hemphill said. “I think by not allowinghis lawyer to defend him any way he could, I thought it wasludicrous.”

Yet Hemphill said Hollie had given a full confession to thecrime, and that possibly though he has shown no remorse, he may besimply taking his punishment.

“He absolutely knows what he’s doing,” he said. “He can blameanybody he wants to, but I think this is his way of just sayinghere I am, I did it, take me.”

The jury decision was returned in just over an hour. Jurorsunanimously agreed Hollie should die for his role in Ward’sdeath.

“I do hereby sentence you to death by the method described bythe state of Mississippi at a time to be determined,” said Pickard,who added on a 50-year sentence for armed robbery.

In Mississippi, the death sentence carries an automatic appeal,though officials don’t really know what to expect from Hollie sincehe has asked for the death penalty since he confessed to the crimethe day he turned himself in to Wesson police and the Copiah CountySheriff’s Department in the middle of Highway 51 in Wesson.

The court then heard impact statements from the victim’s family.Ward’s family told the court of the ways that their lives have beenchanged forever.

“I don’t even feel like I can be a good mother to my childrenbecause I’m a grieving child myself,” said daughter Julie Case. “Ifear my children won’t even remember him as a person, just thehorror of his death.”

Ward’s son, Wesson Police Chief Chad O’Quinn, is currentlystationed overseas, but members of his department said it is arelief to have the case finished so that the healing can begin.

“As far as the police department is concerned, it didn’t matterif the sentence was life in prison or the death penalty, we’rehappy that the family got justice,” said acting Police Chief ChadSills.

Hemphill said that while he’s happy that justice has been donefor Ward’s family, he is touched for Hollie’s.

“Chad (O’Quinn)’s been a friend of mine for years, even back inschool. I’m just glad it’s over for his sake,” Hemphill said. “ButI feel for Erik’s mother, I really do. I’m a father, and I can’timagine sitting there watching your child go through something likethis and getting up and asking the jury for the death sentence inher presence, I can’t imagine how that made her feel.”

After the victim impact statements, Hollie, who had remainedstoic throughout the trial, declined to speak to the courtroom.

“It’s all good,” Hollie said.