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Santa Barbara judge finds Nicolas Holzer ‘not insane’ in murder trial


Closing arguments wrapped up Friday in the sanity portion of Nicolas Holzer’s trial.

Holzer had already been found guilty of murdering his parents, his two sons and the family dog. A judge ruled Friday that he was sane when he stabbed his family to death in 2014.

“He said that God told him he had to kill his family before Sebastian’s 13th birthday,” said Christina Voss, Deputy Public Defender.

The prosecution, defense and even the judge had no qualms with the fact that Nicolas Holzer suffered from delusions and various stages and levels of mental illness

“Was it right, was it wrong? It really isn’t all that helpful to the court because I don’t think Mr. Holzer can answer those questions effectively and his delusional state,” said Voss.

“He methodically murdered his mother, his father and his two children with a knife and then he killed the family dog that fact in itself raises an inference that someone was not right mentally,” said Superior Court Judge Brian Hill.

The prosecution alleged that Holzer’s personality disorder waxed and waned over a 10 year period.

“You can’t crawl into bed with your wife every single day and keep from her the reality that you’re thinking that you’re responsible for mass murders around the world that simply unrealistic,” said Prosecutor Ron Zonen.

Superior Court Judge Brian Hill agreed with Prosecutor Ron Zonen that Holzer did not meet the legal burden for a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity and therefore was sane when he stabbed his family to death.

“I find that under the standards applicable in this case, the defendant was sane at the time of the murders and the killing of the dog,” said Hill.

Zonen says he feels gratified with the decision and thought the verdict was appropriate .

“It was a horrifying crime, there was no question that anybody would look at what he did and would come to the default conclusion that he was deranged but the law requires some level of cognitive awareness or lack there of to be found insane and he did not have that. He was fully functioning and fully aware of what he was doing and fully aware of what he was doing was wrong,” said Zonen.

Holzer will likely be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Had he been found insane, he would have served that time at a mental health facility.

Sentencing has been scheduled for August 24th.

(4:00 P.M.)

A Santa Barbara County judge has found convicted quadruple murderer, Nicolas Holzer, not insane.

The decision came down just before 4 p.m. Judge Brian Hill ruled that Holzer was sane at the time he committed the heinous murder of his family in 2014.

Holzer will now spend the rest of his life behind bars as opposed to a mental health facility.

Judge Hill, and both the prosecution and the defense, made no qualms that Holzer suffered from delusions and various stages and levels of mental illness. However, the prosecution highlighted that for over a decade, Holzer’s mental disorders waxed and waned and ultimately Holzer was able to decipher right from wrong at the time of the killings.

Judge Hill said that Holzer did not meet the threshold for a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Sentencing has been set for August 24, 2018.

Closing arguments began Friday in Santa Barbara Superior Court in the sanity phase of trial for convicted quadruple murderer, Nicolas Holzer.

If it’s determined that Holzer was sane at the time of the murders, he will be sent to prison for life. If he is found to have been insane, he will be sentenced to a state mental hospital.

Dr. Lakshman Rasiah, a psychiatry specialist in Ojai, spent the first part of the hearing testifying about his findings of delusions, depression and psychotic events while treating the 48-year-old Goleta man.

Rasiah first met with the defendant in the days after Holzer murdered his parents, William Charles Holzer, 73, and Sheila Garard Holzer, 74, and his two sons, Sebastian, 13, and Vincent, 10 on Aug. 11, 2014.

“He was aware of the nature of his actions,” Rasiah testified. “He knew he needed to do that and was required to do that to save them (his family) from a fate worse than what he inflicted on them.”

Holzer was found guilty on all four counts of murder in May. His trial lasted less than two days.

While on the stand, Rasiah answered questions from Prosecutor Ron Zonen, with regards to the reason Holzer killed his family, Holzer’s ability to call 911 in the moments after, and his understanding of right vs. wrong.

Following Rasiah’s testimony, Defense Attorney Christine Voss began closing arguments, using photos and a captioned timeline as the backdrop.

She highlighted Holzer’s 23 years of mental illness, marking milestones throughout his life and mental deterioration.

“In 1995, he had a major break from reality,” Voss said. “He said he was responsible for Hiroshima, Nagasaki … he was convinced he was responsible for atrocities.”

Voss said despite his mental state, Holzer was able to have coherent conversations.

“He has a cyclical disease, it comes and goes.”

Voss said in 1995 Holzer’s family had to take care of him — in 2014, “the jail took care of him.”

Voss cited Holzer’s medical and mental history, including three suicide attempts and treatment by six psychiatrists and one psychologist. Between 1995 and 2014, Voss said Holzer insisted he’d done terrible things while traveling in Japan. She said in 1998, Holzer cut his abdomen, similar to harakiri, a ritual suicide by disembowelment with a sword.

“‘Seemed like the right thing to do,'” Holzer said at the time, according to Voss.

“How is it possible for him to know right from wrong if he believed for more than 20 years that everything he did was wrong?”

Voss wrapped up her closing argument about 2:30 p.m. Prosecutor Ron Zonen began his closing argument just before 3:00 p.m. Friday afternoon.

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