Kiln Murder Suspect Captured in Florida

The primary suspect in a Kiln woman’s murder was captured Wednesday in Florida and has reportedly confessed to the crime.

Officers of the U.S. Marshals Service – assisted by Columbia County, Fla., sheriff’s deputies – on Wednesday arrested Timothy Nelson Evans, 52, in connection with the murder of 70-year-old Wenda Lafern Holling, Hancock Sheriff Steve Garber said in a press conference Friday.

“We (had) issued a misdemeanor warrant for the arrest of Evans, and the U.S. Marshals Service, assisted by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department, was able to locate and arrest him within a week,” Garber said.

Hancock County Transport Officers Lt, Kevin Hume and Eddie Hursey left around 8 a.m. Thursday for Florida, picked up Evans and returned to Hancock County around 9 p.m. He was booked in and charged with murder, Hancock Investigator John Luther said.

Evans apparently confessed to Columbia County, Fla. detectives that he had killed Holling, Hancock investigators said.

Evans appeared Friday before Hancock County Justice Court Judge Jay Lagasse, who set a March 23rd preliminary hearing. Lagasse said Evans has been formally charged with Holling’s murder and set a bond of $1,000,000.

Officers say Evans – who had been renting living quarters from the victim – had been a suspect in her death virtually since she disappeared around January 3. Her body was found on the side of a road in Harrison County on Tuesday, January 26.

“Evans was a person of interest in the case as soon as Ms. Holling’s was reported as missing,” Luther said Friday.

Evans had initially told Holling’s family members that she had departed from her residence on the morning of Jan. 4 with “close friends,” bound for a vacation in Florida, Garber said.

For days following the missing person report, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department Special Operations Unit – under the direction of Major Matt Karl and made up of deputies, firefighters and trained civilian volunteers, along with Gulf Search & Rescue Unit – searched the rugged woods near the victim’s home. During the search, people on foot, four-wheelers and horseback combed the area.

Hancock investigators John Bunce and Brandon Norman conducted a sonar search of a burrow pit and a creek near the residence.

“Following the finding of the body, the investigation was a team effort and on-going, involving many agencies,” Garber said. “We have our investigative department; there is Harrison County Sheriff Melvin Brisolara’s investigators; Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove; the District Attorney’s Office; Mississippi Crime Lab; Mississippi Highway Patrol Investigative Unit; and Dr. Paul McGarry, forensic pathologist.”

“This case has really been a team effort between many agencies,” Hancock Chief Investigator Kenny Hurt said at the press conference Friday. “I feel the U.S. Marshal’s Service has done a great job in locating and apprehending Evans with assistance from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department.”

Hurt said Hancock investigators alone had spent more than 1,000 man hours on the case.

“When a case like this happens, the first three or four days, I assign the entire investigative team, and then will select a team of three,” Hurt said.

“Our team includes Assistant Chief Investigator Andre Fizer, Investigator John Luther, Investigator Ricky Fayard, Investigator Matt Carver, Investigator John Bunce, and Investigator Brandon Norman.

“In this case, I named Luther the lead investigator, assisted by Fayard and Norman, after the first few days.”

“We are also grateful for all the help from the citizens that were concerned for Ms. Holling. The public’s calls helped and allowed our investigators to focus on other components of the search,” Garber said.

Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove has not released the cause of death in the case, and will only say publicly that it was a homicide. Garber continued that stand on Friday, saying he did not want to jeopardize the case.

BY: Ellis C. Cuevas

The Sea Coast Echo

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