Spokane police could soon know more about what happened to a missing Spokane woman feared dead. A local lawyer has taken on the case of her adoptive mother and brother, who fled to Texas during a criminal investigation last fall.
Attorney Steve Graham said in court Thursday that releasing them from law enforcement custody would expedite their return to Spokane to face the minor charges against them, after weeks in federal facilities waiting to be transported.
Graham said a family member is prepared to drive them to Spokane from Texas so they can set the record straight on the disappearance of Courtney Holden, who hasn’t been seen in more than a year and a half.
Joshua and Judy Holden are each accused of identity theft and custodial interference due to suspicion they accessed bank accounts for Courtney and hid her 7-year-old child from police and his father. Multiple people familiar with the family, including neighbors, friends and a former foster child, have told KHQ that Joshua is violent and they believe he and Judy killed Courtney.
Court documents detail accusations that Joshua physically abused Courtney and, along with Judy, restricted her activity around their home on Heroy Avenue, about a block from Rogers High School in northeast Spokane.
Neighbors told police Courtney was afraid to leave the home due to punishment from Joshua, who had set up a slew of cameras around the residence, and cried over the phone about not being allowed to have a life, including access to social media, a cellphone or a car.
The last time anyone may have seen Courtney was during the summer of 2018, when a neighbor saw her dragging a large duffel bag out of the house. Judy confronted her about running away, then Joshua picked her up and brought her back inside, the neighbor said.
Graham said the Holdens have not provided any new information about Courtney’s potential whereabouts, but he plans to locate her as a part of his defense for Judy and Joshua.
Courtney “left the child with my clients,” Graham said outside the courtroom Thursday. “So we’re optimistic she’s going to be located alive and well.”
But court documents “suggest there’s something more sinister going on,” Graham said in court.
Investigators say they have no concrete evidence she is living, such as her lack of what used to be monthly prescription refills since summer 2018. Court documents show Courtney was a loving mother who would never abandon her son.
“People don’t just disappear, especially if they have a child,” Spokane police Detective Randy Lesser told The Spokesman-Review in January.
The initial concern about Courtney’s whereabouts came from the father of her child and his current girlfriend, because they hadn’t seen Courtney in two years and the father wanted to reconnect with his child.
But when patrol officers and detectives went to her house on separate occasions, Joshua and Judy Holden refused to cooperate with the investigation, which isn’t normal when it comes to welfare checks and missing person cases. They told neighbors and family varying stories about Courtney traveling, running away or being inside but unable to visit.
After people stopped seeing Courtney, money continued to be withdrawn from her bank account each month and her EBT card was used to buy groceries. Video footage showed Joshua and Judy with a young child purchasing the groceries. Cameras captured the pair making the final withdrawal from Courtney’s bank account on the day she was reported missing in early October.
By late October, Joshua and Judy had left their home. The DVR for their home surveillance system was missing when police searched the home. Cellphone numbers police associated with Joshua and Judy were deactivated in mid-November, but two new numbers on the account were activated the same day with Texas area codes.
Joshua and Judy were both arrested in Plano, Texas, while staying with family in December. Courtney’s child was later reunited with his father.
Lesser, the Spokane police detective, said he was not pursuing charges against Joshua’s and Judy’s family members, whom he found impersonated Courtney during phone calls with police and communicated with Joshua from jail about hiding some of his belongings.
Spokane police have searched Judy’s two properties in Spokane with cadaver dogs but have not found a body. During previous searches of their residence, police found handwritten “blackmail” notes, ID cards for Courtney, more than a dozen cellphones and a number of computers, but none of those items have led to breaks in the case, Lesser said.
Around the time Courtney went missing, one neighbor reported seeing Joshua set up spotlights in his backyard two days in a row while a constructing a swing set in the middle of the night. Lesser said earlier this month he had no plans to ask a judge to excavate or search that area.
At the time Joshua and Judy were arrested, they refused to talk to police and would not agree to be extradited back to Spokane. The U.S. Marshals Service then began the process to transport them home to Spokane earlier this month.
But Joshua recently was released from federal custody in Oklahoma due to concerns about his health issues in light of potential COVID-19 outbreaks in detention facilities, according to Graham. He has since returned to Texas, though Judy remains in a federal facility in Nevada, Graham said.
Graham argued Thursday for a judge to order Judy’s release and quash Joshua’s felony warrant so he won’t be re-arrested, Graham said. Judy, 74, who has health issues herself, could catch the novel coronavirus and die in custody, and they’re accused of minor charges at this time.
Spokane County Superior Court Judge John Cooney did not quash Joshua’s warrant, because he is free to return to Spokane any time but said Judy should be released if Spokane police can confirm Courtney’s child is safe.
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