By Jon Johnson
MODESTO CALIF. – The prime suspect in the Thatcher cold case murder of Mary Anne Holmes is still a resident of Stanislaus County Jail while awaiting adjudication for a double stabbing in a trailer park Nov. 22, 2016.
Phillip Turley, 54, and his co-defendant, Alisha Nadine Gomes, 29, are both being held on charges of attempted murder. Turley’s bond has been set at $2 million. Turley was booked into the jail after he allegedly stabbed two roommates, a now 55-year-old woman, and a now 57-year-old man, at the Country Western Mobile Park. Turley reportedly had recently moved in with the pair after his mother, who had managed the park, moved back to Arizona a few months prior to the stabbings.
Turley was one of three suspects featured on the TNT television show “Cold Justice” when it examined the July 9, 1995, brutal murder of Mary Anne Holmes, 29, of Thatcher. Holmes was horrifically murdered and sexually assaulted in her home with her 4-year-old and 18-month-old daughters present. Authorities located Holmes’ body the next day after her 4-year-old daughter ran across the street to her neighbor’s house naked and with her hands bound. Once there, the young girl told her neighbor her mother was dead. Later, the girl drew a grisly picture of the scene with what appeared to be a hatchet stuck in the side of her mother’s head.
Investigators informed the show that Holmes had been tortured and sexually victimized for hours in front of her children before ultimately being killed by blunt-force trauma. She was found handcuffed in the fetal position.
He 4-year-old daughter was also bound with rope and her underclothing cut off from her.
“The person who committed this crime wasn’t just a murderer, he was pure evil,” former Texas prosecutor Kelly Siegler said on the show. “This is the kind of freak that we would like to get off the streets more than anybody.”
Turley rose to the top of the suspect list after investigators learned of his obsession with Holmes, having drawn up elaborate plans for their life together after briefly dating; a life that Holmes did not appear to reciprocate. Circumstantial evidence at the scene including a shoe print also fit Turley’s profile, and his sexual fantasy proclivities were a match for what happened to Holmes as well.
According to attorney Murray Newman, a consultant for “Cold Justice”, Turley also kept a detailed journal about his plans for their life together.
“His fascination with Mary Anne was well documented in his own words, as he kept a very detailed journal on his feelings for her,” Newman wrote in a blog. “Woman that Turley had dated told investigators disturbing details of his ‘fantasy life’ that seemed consistent with details of the crime scene . . .”
Turley also is reportedly bipolar and may have been off his medications and acting erratically when his California victims learned of his connection to the Holmes murder. According to an article in the Modesto Bee, a neighbor said the male victim was stabbed in retaliation for informing others about Turley being featured in the “Cold Justice” episode.
So far, there have been mental competency hearings and reports and a few other hearings in his California attempted murder case. Turley’s next scheduled court hearing is a preliminary examination set for March 27, 2018.
When Turley was first arrested last year, Thatcher Police Chief Shaffen Woods described Turley as still being a “person of interest” in the Holmes case and that his department will continue to do what it can to hopefully one day solve the murder and bring justice to Holmes two surviving daughters.
“We have never stopped working on this case and will continue to exhaust all leads and possibilities available to us, until it is either resolved or we have no further leads,” Woods wrote in an email to Gila Valley Central in November 2016. “We understand the desire from the public to bring the Holmes case to a close and to bring the suspect to justice. I can assure you that we are just as anxious as anyone. However, it is important to keep in mind the rights of all people and respect the due process afforded to us as Americans. It is often difficult to balance the need to be transparent and still protect the integrity of the investigation. We will do our best to accomplish both. However, at this time, we do not have any further information to release regarding those cases. We would like to extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims, families, friends, and anyone else who has been affected by these tragic crimes.”
Jeff Farrow of the Modesto Bee contributed to this report.