LANSING, Mich. – A mother who claimed that her missing 7-year-old son had run away was found guilty Friday of murder after prosecutors said she struck him in the head and then neglected to seek help as he slowly died of his injury.
Lisa Holland cried quietly as jurors found her guilty of first-degree felony murder and child abuse in the death last year of her adopted son Ricky. Felony murder carries a mandatory life sentence without parole. Sentencing was set for Nov. 28.
Her lawyer had told jurors that the real killer was her husband, Tim. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, second-degree murder, and testified against his wife. The jury began deliberations on Wednesday.
When Ricky disappeared in July 2005, the couple said he ran away, sparking an extensive nine-day search by 1,700 volunteers and hundreds of law enforcement officers.
Then, in January, Tim Holland led police to Ricky's body in an Ingham County game area and admitted dumping his son's remains. He told authorities his wife hit Ricky in the head with a hammer.
The defense said Tim Holland, 37, couldn't be trusted because he lied many times to police, the public and the media. He faces up to life in prison with the possibility of parole when sentenced Nov. 15.
During the seven-week trial, witnesses portrayed Lisa Holland, 33, as a cruel mother who abused Ricky by hitting him with a wooden spoon, duct-taping him to the refrigerator and making him wear a harness on the school bus.
Her husband testified that on July 1, 2005, he came home from an errand and found Ricky dead in bed, with vomit and traces of blood around his mouth, and his wife screaming she "didn't mean to do it."
He said that a week earlier, he had returned from military training in Virginia to find the boy with a cut on his head, listless and unable to walk. He said he didn't take him to a doctor because he didn't want a confrontation with his wife and thought his son would get better.
"I didn't want her to start pushing me around in front of the kids," Tim Holland said.
The prosecution said Ricky likely suffered a brain injury a week or more before he died, and his parents let him die a slow death.
The Hollands became Ricky's foster parents in 2000 and adopted him in 2003, the year after the parental rights of his biological parents were terminated because of neglect. The couple also adopted Ricky's three younger siblings and in addition had a child of their own.