Jacob Holly, accused of killing a father and stabbing the man’s son last summer near Elkins, was found not guilty of all charges by a Washington County Circuit Court jury this week.
Washington County Public Defender Autumn Tolbert said the defense team, including Chief Deputy Public Defender Leana Houston, built a case that showed Holly was defending himself after being attacked and held under water while catfishing in the White River last summer.
Holly, of Rogers, was arrested July 15, 2012, after officials recovered the body of Chris Kelley, 44, of Elkins, from the White River on that day. Holly was accused of killing Kelley and stabbing his son, Shawn Kelley, 22, also of Elkins, near the White River bridge on Arkansas 74 the night before, records show.
Holly told 5NEWS the day after the verdict that he was glad to move on, but disappointed to miss out on some of his life while he was behind bars.
“I missed the birth of my child because of this stuff,” he told 5NEWS.
Holly also expressed sympathy toward Kelley’s family, saying, “It’s sad. They lost someone too.”
Holly pulled a boning knife out of his tackle box and used it to defend himself after Chris Kelley, armed with a knife, and Kelley’s son held Holly under water, Tolbert said.
Tolbert said Arkansas law allows someone to use deadly force in a public setting if there is a reasonable belief that the other person is using or is about to use deadly physical force. However, deadly force cannot be used if it is possible to retreat with complete safety, she said.
The trial before Circuit Judge Mark Lindsay began Monday and ended Wednesday night (July 3) with the not-guilty verdicts.
Holly was charged second-degree murder and first-degree battery, Tolbert said.
On Sept. 7, Holly pleaded not guilty to both charges at an arraignment before Magistrate Judge Ray Reynolds at the Washington County Detention Center. Not-guilty pleas are standard at felony arraignments to allow the case to proceed to court. Holly was released on a $100,000 bond.
On July 14, 2012, Holly flagged down an off-duty officer about 10 p.m. and said he stabbed two people who were trying to drown him, records show.
Washington County sheriff’s deputies and Elkins police searched into the night on July 14 under the bridge and a wooded area for Chris Kelley. The search turned to the White River, where his body was found about 2 p.m. on July 15, records show.
Alcohol was involved, police said, but they did not know to what degree.
In the backseat of a patrol car, Holly said he was the victim and was the one who had been trying to call 911.