Ashland mother wrestled knife away before she died
After Ashland boy Ezekiel Holmes stabbed both his mother and sister with a kitchen knife, his bleeding mother wrestled the knife away from him, then collapsed and died.
New details about the Jan. 10, 2017, stabbings emerged in Jackson County Circuit Court’s juvenile court today.
Ezekiel Holmes pleaded guilty to murder in the death of his mother, Pam Wolosz, plus attempted murder and first-degree assault for the attack on his sister, Lydia Holmes.
Now a tall, slender 14-year-old, Ezekiel Holmes was 12 at the time of the attacks. His sister, who survived her injuries, was a 16-year-old Ashland High School student then.
He answered politely as the judge on the case asked him whether he had committed each of the criminal acts briefly described in an indictment.
“I do admit, your honor,” he said to the murder charge.
Jackson County Deputy District Attorney Ruby Herriott, who prosecuted the case, said Wolosz was in the kitchen when Ezekiel Holmes came downstairs, picked up a knife in the kitchen and stabbed her. She suffered multiple stab wounds, including an injury to the back of the neck, Herriott said.
Ezekiel Holmes then started going back up the stairs, where he met his sister, she said.
“He stabs her multiple times,” Herriott said.
The sister’s injuries included stab wounds to the back, head, arm and shoulder, she said.
Wolosz then wrestled with her son for control of the knife, Herriott said.
“There was a struggle for the murder weapon between Mr. Holmes and his mother,” Herriott said.
Wolosz managed to get the knife away from her son, but then collapsed on the downstairs floor and died, Herriott said.
For now, Herriott said she can’t talk about what may have precipitated the attack or what might have been Ezekiel Holmes’ motive in stabbing his mother and sister.
“I can’t speak to that because the case isn’t done yet,” she said.
Ezekiel Holmes will be sentenced on Oct. 15. A person convicted of murder in juvenile court can be kept in the custody of the Oregon Youth Authority until age 25.
People affected by the case, including family members, will be given the opportunity to speak in court on Oct. 15 before Holmes is sentenced.
Jim Holmes, Ezekiel Holmes’ father, said after Tuesday’s court hearing that he will be able to speak more openly about what might have precipitated the attack once the case is concluded.
In the future, Jim Holmes said he wants to advocate about certain issues so other families might not have to endure what his family has experienced. He declined to say whether mental illness or other issues may have been a factor in the case.
Jim Holmes said his daughter is recovering physically and emotionally.
“She is really strong,” he said, choking up. “She’s doing pretty well.”
Jim Holmes said the year-and-a-half since the incident has been challenging for his family — especially since it contains both the attacker and the victims.
“It’s been hard. It’s been very difficult. We have been very fortunate that we’ve had a lot of great support from the community. Zeke has gotten great legal support. He’s gotten all of the other support that he needs. The folks here at the detention center are taking really good care of him. They’re getting him the support in the system that he needs. And we as a family have had a lot of support both from my immediate and extended family, and we’ve had a lot of great support from the community both regionally and through my professional community,” Jim Holmes said.
He said the family is continuing on its journey into uncharted territory step by step.
“There’s no blueprints for that,” Jim Holmes said.
He said he is grateful to Herriott, the prosecutor, and Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert for keeping his son in the juvenile system rather than trying him in adult court.
Jackson County Circuit Judge Kelly Ravassipour said the court had determined Ezekiel Holmes lacked the sophistication and maturity needed to understand the nature of his conduct, so it was appropriate for him to remain in the juvenile system.
Herriott said a high bar has to be met to try a juvenile in adult court, and the case did not meet those standards.
Oregon’s Measure 11 statute allows for children younger than 15 who are charged with serious crimes such as murder to be tried in adult court.
Murder convictions in adult court carry a mandatory 25-year minimum sentence.
Ezekiel Holmes’ lead defense attorney, Emily Simon, declined to comment about the case at this time.
On the day of the attack, Ashland police said they were called to the house on Morton Street and found, Wolosz, 52, dead. Lydia Holmes was taken to a hospital.
Ezekiel Holmes was cooperative with police and was taken into custody. A chef’s knife was recovered at the scene, police said.
“Every homicide is tough, and to watch this unfold and see a 12-year-old taken into custody for murdering his mother, it’s been a rough day and it’s going to be a rough patch for the community to work through,” Ashland police Chief Tighe O’Meara said during a press conference on the afternoon of the attack. “This is really especially tragic.”
Wolosz was a retired U.S. Air Force officer with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering and master’s in engineering management, according to online records.