Former U.S. Navy Air Traffic Controller Sentenced to Life for Murder of His Wife

Also Attempted to Threaten a Witness and Obstruct an Official Proceeding

BALTIMORE (June 9, 2011)—U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson sentenced Ryan Holness, age 30, of Lexington Park, today, to life in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for interstate domestic violence resulting in the murder of his wife and attempted witness intimidation.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Colonel Terrence Sheridan, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Kent County State’s Attorney Robert Strong.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said, “Ryan Holness will spend the rest of his life in federal prison as punishment for committing the brutal murder of his wife and telling outrageous lies in an effort to fool law enforcement authorities and collect on her life insurance policy,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “I commend the law enforcement officers and prosecutors whose exceptional work brought a violent criminal to justice.”

“Had it not been for the outstanding assistance and prosecution provided by the United States Attorney’s Office in support of an excellent investigation by Maryland State Police Homicide Unit investigators and the FBI, this criminal may have gone unpunished,” Colonel Terrence B. Sheridan said. “Their dedicated efforts combined to refute the story of a man who initially reported he was a victim, but instead was found guilty of murdering his wife.”

Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said, “This was a tragic case where the defendant was motivated to kill his wife for his own financial gain. The investigators and prosecutor worked diligently to ensure justice was served on behalf of the victim’s family.”

According to evidence presented at the two week trial, Ryan Holness lived in Lexington Park, Maryland and worked for the United States Navy. Serika Dunkley Holness lived in Brooklyn, New York with Holness’ mother and brother. During his marriage, Holness had several girlfriends in Maryland, Virginia, and New York. A few months before Serika Holness’ murder, Holness obtained a $500,000 life insurance policy on his wife. Holness was the sole beneficiary on that policy. Holness devised a scheme to bring his wife from New York to Maryland for the murder. On June 4, 2009, late at night, Holness and his wife traveled together from Brooklyn, New York to Maryland. Serika Holness was found murdered, stabbed multiple times in Crumpton, Kent County, Maryland, during the early morning hours of June 5, 2009.

Trial evidence showed that in an effort to conceal the murder, Ryan Holness told the police an elaborate tale to disguise his participation in the murder. According to trial testimony, Holness told police that on June 4, 2009, at approximately 9:00 p.m., he and his wife left Brooklyn heading towards his residence in Lexington Park, Maryland. Holness claimed that he needed his wife to come sign the lease at his Maryland apartment. Serika Holness did not live with Holness in Maryland, although Holness fraudulently claimed that his wife and two children lived at the apartment that he leased.

According to trial testimony, Holness said that while on the New Jersey Turnpike, he and his wife stopped at a rest stop to get gas. Witnesses testified that Holness claimed that a masked assailant, armed with a gun and knife, forced his way into the couple’s car at the rest stop and ordered them to drive to Maryland. After stopping along a county road, as directed by the carjacker, Holness claimed that the carjacker dragged him out of his car, bound his hands and feet and then stabbed Serika Holness several times as she tried to flee. Holness told police that he wanted to help his wife, but claimed that the carjacker kicked him in the head, causing him to black out for several hours. By the time Holness woke up, he did not know what had happened to his wife. He further claimed that he freed himself several hours later and ran into a nearby house for help.

Evidence presented at trial showed that a K-9 tracked Holness’ scent away from the murder scene to a nearby river, where Holness discarded the knife. Finally, DNA and other evidence confirmed that Holness participated in the murder of his wife.

Holness also wrote a third party confession letter while incarcerated by state authorities, which was entered as evidence. The confession letter, purporting to be from the real killer, contained details that only the true murderer would know, including some details that were never revealed publicly. Holness asked another person to mail the letter to the Washington Post.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the Maryland State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Kent County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in this investigation and prosecution. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorney John F. Purcell, who prosecuted the case.

Source: Office of United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein

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