LUBBOCK, Texas — Debi Bryant Holland, 38, of Lubbock County, who was previously charged with capital murder in the death of her daughter Holli Jeffcoat, pleaded guilty Friday morning to the lesser charge of injury of a child, elderly or disabled.
As part of the deal she was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The punishment range was between 2 – 20 years.
Holli, 18, described in previous court records as a special-needs student, was found dead in a home in Northeast Lubbock County on February 10, 2016. The Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office said she was stabbed to death and that someone set a fire to the home in an effort to cover up the crime.
An autopsy showed she was pregnant at the time she was murdered. Not only was she pregnant, but her baby was cut out of her, court records said. Her womb and her uterus were cut out.
Less than two weeks before her murder, she made an outcry of sexual abuse to school officials in Lorenzo. Technically, Holli was an Idalou ISD student, but she attended the EPEC program based in Lorenzo.
In her outcry, Holli told school officials that James Holland, her stepfather, had been sexually abusing her. James Holland pleaded guilty to capital murder in December 2018 and is currently serving a life sentence.
Before she was charged with capital murder, Debi Holland was charged with aggravated sexual assault – not because officials accused her directly of sexually abusing Holli, but instead because she was accused of enabling James Holland.
Debi Holland was accused of covering up the sexual abuse instead of stopping it.
Related Story: Mother of Murder Victim Accused of Covering Up Sexual Abuse
Court records in February 2016 said, “It was reported that Holli [Jeffcoat] had told her mother … about the sexual abuse and [the mother] told Holli not to tell anyone about the sexual abuse because they would not have anyone to pay the bills in the home.”
Court records revealed that James Holland would pick her up after school and take her to a secluded area to have sex with her on a regular basis.
But there was more than one sexual abuse victim in the case. Before James Holland was charged with capital murder, he was arrested for continuous sexual abuse of a child. The victim, who was 9 years old when the abuse started, was a close relative of Holli, official records said.
Children’s Protective Services believed that Holli was the victim of sexual abuse when she was age 10 but there was not enough evidence of specifically who did it, CPS said in 2008 court records.
In May 2016, Debi Holland was arrested. She remained in the Lubbock County Detention Center since that time.
Debi Holland’s mother, Sherrie Ray, said she feels a sense of relief that Holli now has some justice. Ray still loves her daughter but wishes she admitted to the truth sooner.
Ray said she wishes her granddaughter Holli never had to go through any of this pain, and Ray still misses her every day.
In June, Governor Greg Abbott signed SB 194 ‘Holli’s Bill’ into law.
After the plea hearing, Debi Holland’s defense attorney, Mark Snodgrass, gave a statement:
“Debi’s just ready to get this behind her. She’s been sitting in jail for three and a half years from a charge with a murder she did not commit, [or] have anything to do with. Debi’s real crime was being married to James Holland. This plea today resolved that. I think she had the understanding that he did some horrible acts to her children that she was unaware of but probably should have stopped him from doing had she been aware. This plea adequately addressed that and we’re just happy to get this behind her, so she can start her grieving process for the daughter that she lost.”
The office of Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney released the following statement:
On Friday, November 22, 2019, Debbie Holland pled guilty to the charge of Injury to a Child in the 137th District Court and was sentenced to 15 years TDC.
With James Holland currently serving Life Without Parole for the Capital Murder of Holly Jeffcoat and Debbie Holland today accepting responsibility for her actions, justice has been served on these cases. It is impossible to know exactly what this Defendant knew, but she was positively a parent who failed to protect her children from the evil that was occurring to them. Sometimes justice is as much about what needs to happen to a Defendant as it is what’s in the best interest of the victim. The living victim in this case has been blessed with a new found life. We are so proud of the progress she has made and the young woman she has become. We pray that today’s guilty plea will give her and her family some amount of peace and closure.