Round Two

Holtz denies three charges in negligent homicide case
By: 
Mikaela Koski and Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, September 13, 2018

Michael Holtz pled not guilty to three counts stemming from the 2013 death of Forest Dana last Friday in 22nd Judicial District Court.

Holtz is charged with negligent homicide, failure to remain at the scene of an accident involving serious bodily injury, and tampering with evidence – all three felonies.

In 2014, negligent homicide and tampering with evidence charges against Holtz for Dana’s death were dismissed without prejudice by Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde.

The new case is being prosecuted by Montana Assistant Attorney General Chad Parker, who appeared at Friday’s arraignment remotely via Vision Net.

The state recommended that Holtz be released on his own recognizance (OR) and requested that he be monitored by his attorneys to ensure he is present for all court proceedings.

Parker mentioned that while charges such as those filed against Holtz typically involve monetary bail, Holtz appeared at the arraignment on his own volition.

Due to the fact that Holtz currently lives and works out of state, Parker did not request that Holtz stay in Montana. Defense attorneys Cammi and Vern Woodward explained that Holtz is currently living in Vancouver, Wash., and is employed with a disaster restoration company.

Holtz’s attorneys agreed with the prosecutor’s request, saying Holtz is not a flight risk and has been very cooperative and open throughout the process.

District Judge Blair Jones kept with the recommendation and ordered that Holtz be released OR.

Included in the list of terms and conditions that accompany Holtz’s release is weekly contact with counsel to keep them advised of his whereabouts, maintaining employment, and no consumption of drugs or alcohol.

Jones emphasized one condition – that Holtz not have any contact with the family of the victim or with witnesses.

Holtz was given permission to have contact with his own family members who are listed as witnesses, but he is not to discuss the details of the case with them.

Jones noted that tampering with witnesses is a serious, legitimate concern.

“The court doesn’t want to see anyone’s testimony colored,” the judge warned.

THE CASE

Dana, who was 27 at the time of his death, was found by family members in the alley directly behind the family home in the early morning hours of July 28, 2013.

A medical examiner determined that Dana was killed when his spinal cord was severed as the result of being run over by a vehicle, according to court documents.

Several witnesses placed a car matching Holtz’s car near the scene at the time. The discovery of Dana’s DNA on Holtz’s car tied him to the crime, according to court documents and court testimony.

Investigators contend Holtz attempted to conceal his involvement in the death by crashing his vehicle into a tree, causing additional damage. Despite efforts to keep the DNA evidence from being admissible at trial, Jones ruled it could be used.

In the new charging document filed by Parker, the issue of identifying Holtz is prominent.

Multiple witnesses told investigators the identical Holtz twins could be distinguished by their facial hair — specifically, that Michael Holtz was normally clean-shaven, as opposed to his twin brother, according to the new court documents.

Several witnesses also describe seeing a small blue car speeding in the area. At least two people positively identified Holtz as being in his car speeding near the alley.

At least one person told investigators that he saw a vehicle being driven approximately 80 mph by the Holtz twin “without facial hair,” according to the new documents filed by Parker.

One person told investigators she was with Holtz’s twin around midnight, and that Michael Holtz was not with them. At that same time, Holtz was reportedly seen standing off the roadway in the trees and had a conversation with a man who knew him, according to court documents.

Holtz later told investigators that he didn’t believe anyone else had driven his car that night, according to court documents. His car was later seized and the following was found, according to new court documents:

“Bruises or markings observed on Forest’s head were similar in design to the grill of the Mazda. The front grill of the Mazda was also broken out on the passenger side. The undercarriage of the Mazda, including the bottom of the oil pan, the bottom of the cross member between the Catalytic converter and the oil pan, the tread of the passenger-side front tire, the passenger-side front CV joint, and the front passenger-side A-frame was swabbed for DNA and trace evidence of what appeared to be hairs and fibers. The bumper cover, grill, and the car’s passenger-side mud flaps were collected as evidence.

On June 24, 2014, Agent Knutson received a report from Montana Department of Justice Forensic Scientist Jennifer Revis-Siegfried, which concluded that the DNA found on the bottom area of the passenger side front mud flap and the passenger-side A-frame matched Forest Dana.”

The case was jointly investigated by the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office and the state’s Criminal Investigations Bureau (CIB).

The AG’s office also assisted in the first prosecution.

Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office Chief Investigator Woody Claunch and DCI Agent Len Knutson, both now retired, have worked the case virtually non-stop since 2013.

Category: