Lubbock, TX - 18-year-old Holli Jeffcoat was found murdered in her Lubbock County home on the morning of February 10. The Lubbock County Sheriff's Office said her body was found burned and the Lubbock County Medical Examiner's Office said her death was caused by "sharp force injuries."
So far, no one has been charged in her murder, but Holli's step father, James Holland, has been named as a suspect in her murder by the sheriff's office. Holland was arrested, then indicted on charges of continuous sexual abuse of one of Holli's close relatives. Court records show that Holli told school officials before her death that she was pregnant and that she was also being sexually abused.
The gruesome nature of Holli's death and the upsetting details of her story have been front-and-center in Lubbock-area media, but less has been said about who Holli was as a person.
"Because there's a lot of negative stuff out right now and I don't want her and who she was and her personality to get lost at all with the tragedy," explained Rebekah Miller, one of Holli's counselors at EPEC, the special education Co-Op Holli attended which is based at Lorenzo I.S.D.
EverythingLubbock.com visited Holli's school and classmates this week to learn more about what her life was like. Teachers and school staff members in turn shared memories of Holli, whom they saw every week day.
Holli was an Idalou I.S.D. student, but she was one of nineteen high school students who attended the EPEC program based in Lorenzo.
Miller explained that she got to know Holli especially well during this past year as Holli approached her about various issues in her life she needed help with. She remembers Holli as always cheerful, independent, and often carrying a stuffed dog that she loved.
"We don't want that to get lost, [Holli is] the one that we loved and cared for and did everything we could to take care of. It does seem sometimes like she's getting lost [in the news]" Miller said. "I love that there are pictures of her that have surfaced recently, and every picture is a picture of her smiling, I like to see that."
All of Holli's teachers said they fondly remembered her smile and that it was her most defining trait.
"She had a beautiful smile, no matter what the day was like or how she was feeling, she always smiled and always brightened up our day as well," said one of Holli's teachers who asked not to be named.
The teacher went on to explain that Holli was in many ways a typical teen.
"She really enjoyed working in the office and doing vocational work, she enjoyed helping in the kitchen, she didn't like math or PE but everything else she tried to find a way to enjoy it," the teacher explained.
The teacher added that Holli was filled with school spirit, that she delighted in attending pep rallies and in mentoring younger children in her co-op. Holli also worked for three years as an office aid for her school secretary.
"There was so much to know [about Holli]" the teacher continued. "I think what's really important is to know how innocent she was, she might have been 18 but she was as innocent as a young child. She didn't deserve what happened to her, she should still be here with us."
Miller explained that while Holli was a special needs student, her disability didn't limit her love of chatting or participating in school activities.
"Cognitively interactions with her would be much different than they would be with another 18-year-old girl who did not have some sort of intellectual disability," Miller explained. "She carried on great conversation and had some of the same cares and concerns as any other 18-year-old girl would--how her hair looked, she didn't really like the boys messing with her or anything and she would put them in their place."
Miller and all of Holli's school staff members we spoke with recalled that before Holli died, she received her class ring.
"Actually the last day I saw Holli she had been to the senior ring ceremony at her high school," Miller said. "I don't even remember why I was in the classroom that day but she was ecstatic, she was beaming."
Students and staff at the EPEC Co-Op said that Holli's death has been hugely difficult for them to deal with. Many of their students have sought counseling and extra support. They describe their EPEC program as a tight-knit family and they are leaning one another while they wait for justice in Holli's case.
"It's just such a tragedy that we lost her," Miller said. "There are times where I'm still like, 'How could this have even happened?'"
"I think we're all trying to cope with not having her around," Holli's teacher said. "If there's something that comes up that reminds us of her we all talk about it and the kids draw pictures and do coloring pages for her."
The staff members at Holli's school said they want to see justice in Holli's case, but they also acknowledge it may not come soon.
"Of course like anyone else I hope they are able to find evidence specific enough to make an arrest and that the penalty will be what it needs to be for someone who did what they did to Holli," Miller said. "But I also know that may not happen, or it may not happen as quickly as I would like for it to, or it may not happen in this lifetime."
Her teachers said that despite what Holli was going through personally, she always came to school with a smile and eagerness to participate.
"No one deserves some of the things that she dealt with, but she still came to school did her best, made friends and carried on a normal life despite everything that was happening to her while she was not in school, I don't know how she did it," Miller said.
EPEC Co-Op secretary Terry Hall said she will especially miss Holli's smile and warm greetings in the morning. Holli worked in her office every day and shared her hopes and dreams with Hall.
"Just keep her in your heart, keep her in your prayers. There really are no words for Holli because she was just a good-hearted person," Hall said. "She was one of those people who came into our hearts and took over. And she touched very single one of us."
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