Hollermann's murder charge amended
Second degree intentional murder alleged in wife's death
By Joel Stottrup
On his 40th birthday on April 19, Princeton resident Steve Hollermann heard District Judge James Reuter in Isanti County charge him with second degree unintentional murder in the death of his wife, Deborah Hollermann.
Last Thursday, 34 days after that arraignment, Hollermann was back in the same courtroom for what was originally supposed to be an omnibus hearing to review if police work had been carried out constitutionally.
But instead of an omnibus hearing, Hollermann faced a more severe charge, "intentional second-degree murder," in his wife's death, though "not premeditated."
The charges have evolved in the case in which Steve Hollermann had originally been believed by the general public to have lost his wife in an auto accident the night of March 22 on Highway 95 about six miles east of Princeton.
The State Patrol report immediately after the Hollermann collision that had occurred shortly before 10 p.m. said Deb Hollermann died as the result of an auto accident. The report said Steve Hollermann was driving his 1992 Jeep Cherokee when he somehow went off the right side of Highway 95 while westbound on the highway, while his wife Deb Hollermann was a passenger in the front and not wearing a seat belt.
The Hollermann Jeep, after leaving the edge of the highway, hit a Hyundai car abandoned four feet north of the fog line on the westbound lane. The Jeep glanced off the left rear portion of the Hyundai and then angled southwest across the highway and ended up in the south ditch.
Officers found Steve Hollermann outside the car in the ditch holding his wife, according to the criminal complaint.
What happened within a few days after the collision was some checking of the details of the collision by State Patrol officer Anthony Snyder of rural Princeton.
The fact that there was so much blood around the interior of the Jeep didn't seem to fit with the type of collision which the accident reconstruction showed occurred at about 42 mph maximum.
There were also the details of a wound on the side of Deb Hollermann's head when it was the front of her head which had apparently hit the front windshield during the collision. Evidence also showed, according to the complaint, that she had blood on her before hitting the windshield.
An anonymous phone call to a Princeton police officer to check out the collision again also fueled the investigation. The criminal complaint said that an anonymous caller talked about someone at Fairview Northland Regional Hospital, where Steve Hollermann was a lab supervisor, confronting him about having an affair with another woman.
Investigators subsequently interviewed Hollermann at the Princeton police station. The criminal complaint states that Hollermann, during the interview by investigators, admitted to hitting his wife's head against the side of the frame post in the car after the two had been arguing the evening of the collision.
Bail was set at $200,000 at Hollermann's April 19 arraignment on the charge of unintentional second-degree murder and he was released two days later when it was posted.
Hollermann was brought before Judge Reuter on May 2 and Reuter granted a request from County Attorney Jeff Edblad that Hollermann be ordered not to have contact with members of two families related to Deb Hollermann.
Hollerman was back in Courtroom A at the Isanti County Government Center in Cambridge last Thursday to hear the accelerated charge.
The reading of the revised complaint was delayed by about a half hour as the judge that day, Linn Slattengren, had to deal with other cases.
It was standing room only in the seating area and Hollermann, for a time, stood just inside the courtroom doorway waiting for a seat to open up.
It was finally Hollermann's turn and he went before the judge's bench with his attorney, Craig Cascarano.
Judge Slattengren noted that this would be a first appearance for Hollermann on the amended charge of second-degree intentional murder.
County Attorney Edblad told Judge Slattengren that he had acquired and had given to the court additional information in the investigation into the Hollermann auto collision of March 22. It included evidence from the postmortem exam of Deb Hollermann.
Edblad said he had concerns about Hollermann fleeing in the face of a longer time in prison if convicted on the amended charge. Edblad also mentioned a purchase agreement Hollermann had secured for selling his home at the Fairway Estates development in Princeton.
Defense attorney Cascarano responded that Hollermann no longer has a job at Fairview and that there is now legal action to block Hollermann receiving money from the sale of his home. The proceeds would go into escrow, Cascarano said, explaining that Hollermann wouldn't have those funds to use to flee while the case is pending.
Hollermann has "nowhere to go," and it is "not his intent to take the money and flee," Cascarano said.
Judge Slattengren noted that Princeton attorney Tom Meinz had filed papers in court that would put into escrow any proceeds of a sale of the Hollermann home pending the case's outcome.
The Union-Eagle talked to Meinz outside the courtroom, who said he filed the legal papers at the request of Deb Hollermann's brother, Kevin Vance, the representative of her estate.
Meinz said the property the filing covers includes the home at Fairway Estates and the lakeshore lot with two cabins that the Hollermann couple owned at Green Lake.
Slattengren agreed that what Meinz had filed would be more effective than anything Slattengren could order through court.
Slattengren also said he didn't think that under the described conditions that Hollerman would jump bail and said he wished Hollermann would seek a job.
Cascarano replied that due to this being such a "high profile" case, Hollerman is choosing not to.
Slattengren set the Hollermann omnibus hearing for June 27 at 1:30 p.m. in Isanti County. He asked Cascarano if he thought he could be prepared to contest anything in the omnibus hearing. Cascarano replied that he thought he could be prepared to contest "probable cause." That would mean contesting whether the county has the necessary evidence to make the charge it has made against Hollermann.
Hollermann rejects plea offer
The Union-Eagle learned last week that County Attorney Edblad had given Hollermann the chance, up to the end of the business day of Wednesday of last week, to plead guilty to the original charge of second-degree unintentional murder.
Edblad's assistant, chief deputy county attorney Stoney Hiljus, explained that his office had let Cascarano and Hollermann know that the county would entertain a guilty plea up to a point. The investigation into the case was continuing and if the county attorney got too far into the possibility of upgrading the charge, there would be a point of no more plea on the original charge, Hiljus said. Edblad indicated in court that point had been reached when he said, "Negotiations are off the table."
The Union-Eagle asked Hiljus if he or Edblad had concluded whether they thought Deb Hollermann was still alive just minutes before the collision of the Hollermann Jeep into the abandoned Hyundai on Highway 95.
"Right now we can't say the exact time of death," Hiljus answered. "We're still looking at it and the forensic people are looking at it."
Hiljus said that a brain trauma expert could be called into the case.
Part of the evidence that led to the amended charge, Hiljus said, was that the driver's seat Steve Hollermann was in during the collision had been pushed all the way back and that Hollermann had braced his arms and hands against the steering wheel.
The bracing was enough to crush the steering column and to keep the body back from hitting the steering wheel or windshield in a collision of a maximum speed of 42 mph, Hiljus said the reconstruction report showed.
Hiljus also explained how sentencing could be done if someone is convicted of either second-degree unintentional murder or second- degree intentional murder.
If convicted of the unintentional type, state sentencing guidelines call for 150 months (121/2 years), while they call for imposing 305 months (just under 25 1/2 years) in a conviction of intentional, he said.
The paint marks on Highway 95 where officers reconstructed the Hollermann collision can still be seen. While the case goes on and could for several months, it has left marks in the community.
Many people the Union-Eagle talked to following the opening of the investigation expressed shock at what is being alleged in the case. Some from Princeton have been regulars in the audience at Hollermann's three court appearances so far.
Others could be seen getting copies of the newest addition to the criminal complaint at the front desk of the Isanti County Court Administrator's desk last Thursday.
P.O. Box 278
Princeton, MN 55371