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It’s that time again! And maybe that time is occurring too much? I’m waffling on that, considering making True Crime Tuesday a bi-weekly post to give myself more room to research and write. But we’ll see. Maybe I’ll just write a story whenever I feel the vibe to do it.
This blog is supposed to be a hobby, not work.
Anyway – last week I wrote about The Snapchat Murders – the story of two young girls who are the victims of a still-free killer. There are links in the story to provide any tips to police that you might have. You just never know who or where my posts are going to reach, right?
This week, let’s turn the two girls concept on its head. This is the story of two young girls who are the killers.
Holly Harvey and Sandra Ketchum.
They were called the teenage Thelma and Louise by the media. And sure they stole a car and were on the run, but the down and dirty details are much more gruesome than the classic chick flick. The name just seems to be meant to grab headlines and sensationalize their straight up bullshit. But what more can we really expect from the press sometimes?
In the summer of 2004, Holly was 15 and had lived a difficult life.
She was abused from birth by a drug-addicted mother, whose petty crimes kept her in and out of jail. Because of her mother’s choices, Holly was raised by her grandparents, Carl and Sarah Collier. They were both retired, married 53 years, and hitting the stride of their 70s.
Holly met Sandra the year before. Sandra was gay. And despite the religious household she was being raised in, Holly was accepting of Sandra. They became fast friends and at some point that friendship became romantic.
In a note, Holly wrote to Sandra: “I’m glad I found U. God sent U to me (I don’t care what it says about gay people in the Bible).”
Their small town in Georgia was, unsurprisingly, hostile to the girls. They were regularly called derogatory names and picked on. Instead of facing that negativity, the girls started skipping school to hang out together, just the two of them. Skipping classes escalated to casual drugs and drinking. They felt like no one in the world understood them, except each other. They ran away together, returning after sleeping in a car for 4 days without money and food. The girls also escalated to harder drugs – cocaine, meth and speed. When they ran away again a couple of weeks after the first attempt, The Colliers, at their wit’s end, reported Holly to authorities and she was placed on probation.
Holly struggled with depression. She became more and more combative at home, often fighting with her grandparents – saying over and over again that she would kill them. She threatened suicide multiple times and in a journal, she wrote a poem that contained the line: “All I want to do is kill.”
Holly had been on anti-depressants, but once she started living with her devoutly Christian grandparents, they took her off the medication, instead believing they could “pray away” whatever issues Holly was struggling with.
Between the drugs, the drinking, the combative attitude at home, the issues with the law and the lesbian relationship, Carl and Sarah Collier were losing their God-fearing minds. They did not approve of Holly’s life and demanded that she end her relationship with Sandra, less because of their sexuality and more so because Sandra was also on probation and they considered her a bad influence, according to their son Kevin. And obviously, they weren’t wrong. These two young girls clearly had issues – whether those were deeply rooted in mental health, I can’t assume – but together, they were clearly only making each other worse.
Holly refused to comply with her grandparents demands, and instead she and Sandra came up with a plan to be together forever, their decision making fuelled by marijuana laced with crack.
Holly and Sandra decided to lure Carl and Sarah into the basement by smoking weed and blasting music in Holly’s basement bedroom. On her arm, Holly wrote out her to-do list: “kill-keys-money-jewellery.”
Sandra suggested they hit the Collier’s over the head with a lamp. But Holly wanted to up the ante. She went to the kitchen and came back with “the biggest knife I could find.” Holly practised stabbing a mattress to test the method and the weapon’s sharpness.
When her grandmother came downstairs, Holly attacked, stabbing Sarah. Carl barrelled down the stairs to his wife’s defence and Holly stabbed him in the chest. Carl made a run for it and Holly chased after him as Sandra leapt out from her hiding spot to finish off Sarah.
“I finished with Mrs. Collier,” Sandra told police, “then went to join Holly.”
Carl tried to get to the phone, throwing a coffee cup at Holly in his own defence. But Holly dodged him, pulling the home phone out of the wall as she stalked him through the house. Together the girls stabbed Carl Collier more than a dozen times. The murders were brutal and frenzied. Holly reported having to jump over a pool of blood to leave the house.
The girls grabbed the keys to the truck, took whatever cash and jewellery they could find, drove to a friend’s house – Sarah Polk – to clean themselves up and then headed for the Georgia coast to spend time on the beach. When asked why they were covered in blood, the girls told their friend they’d been attacked by someone. But after some time, the girls giggled, just not able to keep their secret to themselves anymore, and admitted to the murder, saying they were “free.”
There’s something about that which creeps me out. Like, I remember being a teen girl who had a secret and how you just wiggled with anticipation of getting to tell your friends when you know you shouldn’t. I’m a much better secret keeper now, but I think we were all like that growing up. But, back it was always about something like “I heard Erin gave Dane a blowjob behind the soccer field.” The fact that these two girls were so devoid of understanding and emotion for the brutal shit they just pulled and treated the murders like a fun secret, is really disturbing, and I think, gives you an idea of their pathology at the time. And also, possible, and idea of what they thought they’d accomplished – obtaining some kind of freedom. But they were KIDS. CHILDREN. They don’t get that kind of freedom. It’s fucked up, but I digress…
Police were informed about the murders by Polk’s mother, who called 911. “They have blood all over them. Knives and everything.” Police went to the Collier’s and found their blood-soaked bodies inside the white-brick ranch style home in Fayetteville, Georgia.
To the Colliers’ neighbours, the crime was particularly brutal, considering the patience the couple had shown with Holly. Like, for real though – the girl sounds like a total nightmare, murder or not. “Many times they could have thrown up their hands and said, ‘I quit,’” says their pastor, Rev. Glenn Stringham. “They chose, basically, to give their lives to their granddaughter because of their love for her.”
Being the naive, stupid teenager girls that they were, the young couple never considered how to elude capture (or how to like not tell people they’d committed murder?) Police tracked the girls’ movements for hours via their cell phones that they were using to call friends and brag about how they’d escaped the Collier’s and their oppressive home.
US Marshalls eventually caught up with the girls who were staying on Tybee Island, about four hours away from the crime scene. They had met a pair of brothers, new to the area with their mother, and the family had generously given them a place to stay for the night. Cops crashed the house, arresting the girls. After being cuffed, two kitchen knives had been found in the girls’ possession. Had they been planning to hurt this kind family as well? The answer is unknown.
After their arrest, Holly pointed blame at her girlfriend, Sandra, saying it was Sandra who told her to run upstairs after her grandfather in the heat of the attack. Sandra, however, told Lt. Col. Bruce Jordan of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department that Holly “had been discussing killing her grandparents for days,” according to a written summary of the interview she gave police the day after the killings.
During the trial, the teens faced two counts of felony murder, two counts of malice murder and one count of armed robbery. The maximum sentence the girls could have received was life in prison without parole. They were tried as adults. The pair pleaded guilty – Sandra showing signs of remorse and agreeing to testify against her girlfriend – and were sentenced to life in prison in 2005.
When asked why she killed her grandparents, Holly stated: “For Sandy, so we could be together.”
Judge Pascal English asked Holly if she thought doing 20 years in prison after murdering her grandparents was “a good deal,” she said no.
What should happen to her, he asked?
“I think I should be dead,” the girl replied.
“We both agree on that,” he muttered.
Sandra would be offered parole after 14 years; Harvey after 20. Sandra’s lighter sentence was justified by her cooperation with the police and the remorse she showed afterwards. Something Holly did not.
I’ve said it before and will say again, I do not believe in legally trying children as adults. If you disagree, that’s fine. I just don’t think children and teens have the brain development to fully understand what they’re doing, the big picture of it or the long-term consequences. They obviously know right from wrong in most cases, but the brain processes to make a final decision are fucked up, almost nonexistent. It’s a scientific fact that their brains don’t work the way an adult’s does, and to hold them accountable the same way you do an adult is irrational in my opinion.
Teenagers, especially, are notorious for only thinking about how they feel and what they want. They have a myopic view of time – believing that being a teenager is being an “adult” or that life is basically over by 25. They have no concept of what being an adult is, or what living an adult life feels like. We’ve all been in that teenage headspace growing up, we’ve all thought that myopic way, so I try to keep that in mind when it comes to punishment for child murderers.
Obviously, not all of us have entertained the idea of murdering people when we were growing up just because we didn’t like the rules, but we have to keep brain development in mind when deciding how to hold a child accountable.
That doesn’t mean that I think kid murderers shouldn’t be punished with long sentences. What Holly and Sandra did was heinous, brutal and heartless. Granted, they both had upbringings that weren’t conducive to turning out to be upstanding members of society, but that doesn’t excuse murder. Kids should know better than to fucking kill people. But, sometimes the brain wiring just isn’t developing properly because of trauma experiences, genetics, personality type, etc.
I think in most cases, psychiatric confinement is the appropriate punishment for kids who kill. Especially in the U.S. prison system, a prison environment will only serve to make someone worse when they had the potential to get better, to grow. Despite the brutality of what a kid may have done, I don’t believe in punishing them in perpetuity. Though, I’m sure there are some cases where I might.
In Holly and Sandra’s case, they deserve long-term sentences, but I think they should have also been sentenced to psychiatric confinement and treatment.
This is always a controversial take, and I’m okay to defend the position because I have to stand by my principals. My bottom line is that I do not ever agree with trying juveniles as adults. End of.
It seems to me that a lot of people, especially in North America, view punishment and “eye-for-an-eye,” as the ultimate goal in all criminal cases. Of course we face the consequences of the crimes we’ve committed, but for a nation of majority religious people who are taught forgiveness and love by the deity they follow, y’all seem to scream BURN IN HELL!!! with so much conviction and hatred, it’s shocking.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think revenge should be the point of criminal punishment. I think rehabilitation should be the point – where it’s possible. It’s not always possible, especially in adult cases. I am fine with adult murderers getting life sentences. For things like drug offences, not so much. I think with kids, rehabilitation should probably be the point in the majority of cases.
Do I believe that Holly and Sandra would have grown up to kill other people? I doubt it. But I also doubt they would have had good, productive lives without intense intervention. They deserve to be in a prison system geared towards juveniles, with a heavy leaning toward psychiatric intervention.
I would like to know how they feel today about what they’ve done, but I couldn’t find any current statements from them. They’ve both expressed remorse and guilt in the past.
That’s just my two cents. Don’t like it? We can discuss it politely, but if you’re going to be an asshole about it, you can eat a bag of dicks.
If you have a suggestion for a case you want to see written up, pop over to the TCT Suggestions page under the True Crime tab at the top of the page, and send me your ideas!
Stay safe. Be Kind. But, take no shit.
Later, Murderinos ✌️🔪