A 57-year-old ex-felon who was found in Las Vegas with a severed head and body parts in his allegedly stolen vehicle has lost his bid to get out of jail while facing a murder charge.
Eric Holland’s public defender, David Westbrook, argued in court Tuesday that his client might have been “a hapless car thief who just picked the wrong car” and the prosecution had to prove that not only was there a body in the car “but that he knew it was there and that he actually caused the death.”
Justice of the Peace Harmony Letizia responded with a terse order keeping Holland behind bars at least until a preliminary hearing of more evidence in the case, scheduled for Jan. 27.
“Proof is evident and the presumption is great that Mr. Holland committed murder,” the judge said.
Holland was arrested Dec. 23 while driving a vehicle with the dismembered remains of a man later identified as Richard P. Miller, 65, of Las Vegas. The Clark County coroner said Miller died Dec. 23 from multiple gunshot wounds and ruled the case a homicide.
Police and prosecutors said Miller and Holland were acquainted, but have not described a motive for the killing.
Westbrook said outside court his client intends to plead not guilty.
In court he conceded that his client “was caught while running from police,” but challenged police searches of coolers found taped closed in the bed of the 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche that Holland was found driving.
Prosecutor Giancarlo Pesci showed photos to the judge of Miller’s head and questioned two police detectives who testified that along with three handguns, police found receipts for a power saw, construction-grade plastic bags and heavy-duty tape among Holland’s possessions.
Pesci said bullets from at least one of the guns were found in Miller’s head and body parts.
Detective Tate Sanborn testified that home improvement store video also showed a person who looked like Holland buying a saw and other items.
Westbrook asked Ricardo Auerbach, the police detective who found Miller’s head in a cooler, if he first obtained a warrant to search the Avalanche.
Auerbach responded that he was conducting a standard inventory check before the vehicle was impounded and towed away as evidence. Auerbach said he opened the cooler after noticing a smell like decay or fish.
Sanborn said he later obtained a warrant for a more thorough search.
Pesci has said Holland had prior felony and federal criminal convictions dating to the 1980s in states including California, Texas and Nevada under names including Eric John Holland and Eric Allen Holland.
Nevada prison records say Holland used names including John Carl Hall, Phil Whidden, Robert Daniel Lauer and Steven Tauber.
Outside court, Westbrook told reporters that prosecutors had yet to show that Holland knew when fled from police in an allegedly stolen 2018 Toyota Tundra and then switched vehicles to the Avalanche that he “had knowledge of what was in the Avalanche, and that he intentionally led police to the evidence.”
“Why would he do that?” the defense attorney asked.