April 16, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Los Angeles Man Linked to 1972 and 1980 Murders Sentenced to Life

A prolific burglar-turned-murderer, who was behind bars for the 1980 killings of a Santa Monica couple when he was linked to the 1972 slaying of an elderly Hollywood woman, was sentenced today to a potential life prison term.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Laura F. Priver noted that Harold Holman, now 70, has to serve a minimum of seven years in prison before he is eligible for parole under sentencing guidelines in place at the time of Helen Meyler’s Aug. 27, 1972, bludgeoning death.

“This case will give them (state parole officials) plenty to keep him in state prison for the rest of his life. He’s never going to get out,” Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said outside court.

Holman was convicted July 13 of first-degree murder.

DNA evidence from a blanket found at the scene of Meyler’s killing was linked to Holman after the Los Angeles Police Department’s Cold Case unit re- opened an investigation into the crime, resulting in his arrest last year, the prosecutor said.

He was serving a 45-year prison sentence at the time for the January 1980 bludgeoning deaths of 67-year-old Gertrude Forst and her 72-year-old husband, Otto, in their eighth-floor unit in a Santa Monica apartment building.

Holman is a “horrible person” who attacked a “79-year-old completely vulnerable, innocent victim” and “deserves to die in state prison,” the deputy district attorney told the judge.

Nikki Meyler Miller told the judge that her grandmother “spent much of her life helping others” and had moved to a security apartment building because she felt exposed and unsafe after her husband’s death shortly after their 50th wedding anniversary.

“Her death was devastating to our family,” she said, noting that her grandmother had decided to stay home from a family vacation at the last minute. Her body was discovered when a family member came to pick her up for church.

“Two of her children and two of her grandchildren have passed, but when the detectives told us they had identified the killer, we were all relieved to find out he had been in prison for most of those years,” Miller said. “And that is all we are asking for now — to keep him in prison until he is no longer breathing, and prevent any parole or compassionate release at any time, now or ever.”

Holman — who complained that he had not properly been defended during his trial and objected to being “part of a media blitz” as a result of a TV camera being allowed in court — was taken back in a wheelchair to a courtroom lockup to listen to the proceedings through a speaker.

Silverman said it was a “perfect example of a case that would never have been solved but for the DNA evidence.”

The widow, who lived alone in a second-floor apartment in a secured building, was found dead in bed with a pillow covering her head, the prosecutor said. Meyler’s apartment had been ransacked, and her assailant had likely entered through a sliding-glass window.

The woman was bludgeoned with a candelabra that had been a 50th anniversary gift from her husband, Silverman said outside court.

During an interview in state prison in December 2014, Holman admitted to LAPD detectives that he had been involved in a series of similar crimes, including the killings of the Forsts, and acknowledged that he had “made a career out of being a high-rise burglar,” Silverman said. Law enforcement referred to the culprit as “Spider-Man,” she said.

Holman said during the prison interview that he had special shoes with suction cups on them and that he wore night-vision goggles during the burglaries, LAPD Detective Richard Bengtson testified during the trial.

Holman was initially arrested in 1975 after an LAPD surveillance team that was looking into a series of high-rise residential burglaries watched him scale the outside of a 14-story apartment building and move from balcony to balcony, Silverman said. He was in custody for several years before resuming his criminal activity, the prosecutor said.

Along with the killings of the Forsts, Holman was involved in two other break-ins in January 1980 — one in which he shot and killed a woman’s 12-year- old Dachshund and the other in which a woman locked herself in a bathroom and screamed for help, Silverman told jurors. The latter resulted in a manhunt in which a Santa Monica police K9 was called in to help Los Angeles police apprehend him.

Holman’s attorney, Robin L. Baessler, called it a “tragic case,” but urged jurors to keep an open mind about “whether or not there is reasonable doubt for the charged crime.”

She noted that Meyler was killed 44 years ago in a crime without any eyewitnesses and that Holman was never considered a suspect until LAPD cold case detectives re-opened the case.

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