Suspect in murder of Kelli Bordeaux could face death penalty

The North Carolina sex offender suspected of murdering Army Pfc. Kelli Bordeaux appeared in court Thursday, as prosecutors considered seeking the death penalty a day after the discovery of remains believed to belong to the former army medic who disappeared more than two years ago.

Nicholas Holbert was held on $250,000 bond during his first appearance in court, where he faces first-degree kidnapping and first-degree murder.

"As the investigative file comes in we'll review the investigation to see if any factors exist and then we'll present that at a hearing later on in the process," Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West told the Fayetteville Observer. "Ultimately it will be a Superior Court judge's decision but we'll have to review that file to see what, if any, aggravating circumstances could possibly make it a capital murder case."

Earlier, detectives told they "strongly suspect" a body found near a North Carolina highway Wednesday is that of Bordeaux. Evidence found at the scene led police to publicly acknowledge that they believe the remains belong to the 23-year-old woman, though the medical examiner in Raleigh must positively identify the body through dental records, said Lt. Todd Joyce of the Fayateville Police Department.

Joyce said a "citizen" notified authorities at approximately 11 a.m. Wednesday, leading police to scour the area and swiftly find the remains. Joyce declined to identify the caller or say whether the individual had any connection to Bordeaux or Holbert, the 27-year-old registered sex offender who was arrested Wednesday.

Bordeaux's mother, Johnna Henson of St. Cloud, Fla., told the Associated Press that it was Holbert who led police to her daughter's remains.

Holbert is expected to make his first court appearance Thursday afternoon in Cumberland County.

Bordeaux, originally from St. Cloud, Fla., was last seen leaving Froggy Bottoms bar in Fayetteville, N.C., around 1:20 a.m. on April 14, 2012. The woman's husband, a civilian, was visiting family in Florida at the time, and Bordeaux had spent the night singing karaoke and drinking with friends at the hangout.

Holbert, a "bar hand" at Froggy Bottoms, told police he drove Bordeaux home to her apartment complex less than a mile away. He denied any involvement in the woman's disappearance, claiming Bordeaux asked to be dropped off at the entrance of her neighborhood. She was never seen or heard from again.

"Got home safely" was the last message sent from Bordeaux's cellphone on the night she disappeared, but authorities and the woman's family do not believe she sent it.

According to arrest records, Holbert got into a fight with Bordeaux outside the now-closed Froggy Bottoms bar. Arrest records say Holbert knocked Bordeaux unconscious, put her in a car and later killed her at a camp site behind the tavern. Hours later, according to police, he buried her body off River Road about a mile and a half north of Interstate 295.

Holbert, who was living in a tent behind the bar at the time, was arrested on unrelated charges shortly after Bordeaux's disappearance. He was taken into police custody in April 2012 for failing to register as a sex offender at his new address in Cumberland County, N.C.,

Holbert, who was convicted in 2003 at age 16 of indecent liberties with a 5-year-old child, had told media outlets he was being unfairly targeted in the Bordeaux case because of his criminal record.