Prosecutors: Man killed daughter to spare grief from mom's murder

SPANAWAY, Wash. -- Prosecutors have filed aggravated first degree murder charges against a man they say murdered his wife and 11-year-old daughter Tuesday.

Dean Holmes, 40, pleaded not guilty Thursday and remains held in the Pierce County Jail.

The bodies of Holmes' wife Kristi and his daughter Violet were discovered after Holmes walked into the Pierce County Jail early Wednesday and said he fatally shot his wife and child. Pierce County Sheriff's Captain Ed Smith said deputies went to a home in the 15500 block of 20th Ave. Court East and found the bodies just before 5 a.m.

Prosecutors say Dean Holmes pulled a revolver from a dresser early Tuesday morning and shot his wife of 12 years four times as she was sleeping in their bed. Violet was sleeping with a friend in the living room and didn't hear the gunshots due to the sound of a fan running nearby.

After the shooting, Holmes reloaded, then woke the girls and drove them to drop the friend off at her home in Auburn, prosecutors said.

On his way home, Holmes pulled over and shot his daughter several times as she lay sleeping in the backseat, investigators said. He then drove to a fast food restaurant, and ordered food through the drive-thru with his dead daughter in the backseat.

He returned home and put Violet's body next to his wife's then got back in the car and drove around aimlessly, prosecutors said. He decided Wednesday morning to turn himself in, investigators said.

Holmes told investigators he had put his family in dire financial straits and he was afraid his wife would leave him when she found out he had been lying about their finances. Financial records with the Department of Revenue show Dean Holmes owed more than $18,000 in unpaid taxes. He was also being sued by the owners of a home in Puyallup for unfinished work as part of his home painting business.

Holmes told detectives killed his daughter because he reasoned that she would be unable to cope with her mother's death and her father's imprisonment, prosecutors said. He also told detectives that after he shot his wife and daughter, he wanted to also shoot himself and repeatedly placed the gun to his head, but he could not will himself to pull the trigger.

"It's absolutely horrendous, I can't even imagine," said Gerald McNulty, who was married to Holmes' sister. "From the time I've known him... he was just a great guy, nice man, kind soul.

"If you'd have known him before (August) 28, you would say all the things I'm saying. What put him in his place to do these horrible things, I have no idea."

Prosecutors say if Holmes is convicted of aggravated first degree murder, the only possible sentences are the death penalty or life in prison without parole. His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 22.