The 12-year-old Ashland boy who allegedly killed his mother and injured his sister with a chef’s knife Tuesday morning is locked up at the Jackson County juvenile detention facility in Medford while a judge considers whether or not he’ll be tried as an adult.
The victims were 52-year-old Pamela J. Wolosz and Holmes’ sister, who Ashland police chief Tighe O’Meara said is a 16-year-old Ashland High School student. Holmes’ sister was transported to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford. “She’s stabilized and she’s expected to recover,” O’Meara said.
Ezekiel “Zeke” Holmes was quickly arrested without incident after five Ashland police officers responded. He entered not-guilty pleas in Jackson County Juvenile Court Wednesday morning on charges of murder, attempted murder and first-degree assault. Under Oregon law he can be tried in adult court if certain grounds are met, among them: “The youth at the time of the alleged offense was of sufficient sophistication and maturity to appreciate the nature and quality of the conduct involved.”
Deputy district attorney Ruby Herriott declined to speculate on the direction the state is leaning, and few details emerged to shed light on Holmes’ motive or state of mind Wednesday.
Oregon's Measure 11 statute allows children younger than 15 charged with serious crimes, such as murder, to be tried in adult court if decided in a juvenile court hearing.
Herriott said the investigation is ongoing, but if the youth is tried only in Juvenile Court, he would be released from the system by age 25.
"One of the goals of the juvenile court is to rehabilitate the youth and hold them accountable," Herriott said.
O’Meara chose his words carefully when describing the scene his officers discovered at 922 Morton St. when they arrived at about 8:20 a.m. Tuesday.
According to O’Meara, five officers initially responded, followed by four detectives who “self-dispatched” shortly thereafter. Emergency medical technicians were next, followed by about 20 more detectives after the Jackson County Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit was notified.
“(Holmes) followed orders,” O’Meara said of the arrest.
When asked about Holmes’ demeanor when officers arrived, O’Meara said, “That’s another piece that I’m not going to want to get into, because that strays into the area that the district attorney’s going to be getting into very heavily, his state of mind at the time, and I don’t want to stray into the (DA’s) area.”
O’Meara added that APD received two 9-1-1 calls from family members but declined to say who made the calls. “And I’m not being any more specific than that on purpose,” he said.
Asked why, O’Meara said, “I don’t know that I have a good answer for you other than it’s impossible to think this stuff through all the way to the end and I don’t want to inadvertently let out a key piece of information that the district attorney would rather I had kept, so I’m probably overly guarded.”
O’Meara declined to confirm Holmes’ name but that detail was brought to light after Jackson County issued a short press release about his arraignment at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. The name was also included in a Facebook post posted Tuesday night by Holmes’ apparent father, Jim Holmes, who said he was “on travel and away from my family.” O’Meara on Wednesday confirmed that Jim Holmes was “out of the state” during the attack. Jim Holmes also mentioned in his post that Wolosz’s mother, Joanne, also lives with them but was uninjured.
Though APD didn’t confirm Wolosz’s death until a press conference at 3 p.m. Tuesday, word of the crime made its way to the Ashland School District office before lunch, according to ASD director of student services Samuel Bogdanove.
“I did not know (the family) directly, but I know others who know them well and the family’s been a very involved family, very active in the community, strong contributors,” Bogdanove said. “I think they’re asking now for privacy and support as they deal with this.”
Bogdanove said Ashland School District has systems in place to help students cope when tragedy strikes.
“Of course each situation like this is different and unique,” he said, “but in general, our practice is to make sure that staff are aware and have as much accurate information as they can to help kids process, to help if questions come up, and to support them with anything that they may be feeling or experiencing. We also communicate with parents. Any time something like this comes up talking about it is really often best handled at home, and we offer some guidance for that as well as some external resources.”
Bogdanove added that at the high school, students asked about sending cards to their injured classmate. “And so we put together a room where they could have some time to do that,” he said, “so that’ll go to her as she’s feeling and getting well.”
Jackson County Community Justice Deputy Joe Ferguson said that at the juvenile detention facility Zeke Holmes will be sleeping in one of 20 single-cell units, each of which is self contained.
“The rooms look very much like a jail cell,” he said. “It’s got a concrete bed that has a mattress, and then it has the combination toilet/sink piece.”
The rooms are used mostly for sleeping, Ferguson added, noting that during each weekday inmates attend classes on site operated by Medford School District, and participate in physical education and group activities.
If needed, the juveniles also have access to Jackson County mental health services.
Visitors are allowed, but only during designated time slots — the lunch hour is one, for instance.
“And that’s really limited to parents or guardians,” Ferguson said, “unless there’s somebody special that our probation staff authorizes.”
Ferguson said his staff will help decide whether or not Holmes is charged as an adult.
“If there was a decision to waive him to the adult system,” he said, “we would be part of that along with the DA’s office in terms of discussions with that, if that’s the right direction to go.”
Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99. Mail Tribune reporter Nick Morgan contributed to this report.