A Wake County jury found Nathan Holden guilty of first-degree murder for the killings of his in-laws in Wendell in 2014.
Holden, 32, was also found guilty of attempting to kill his wife, Latonya Holden, while the couple’s three children hid in a bedroom closet.
Holden’s attorney, Elizabeth Hambouger, told the jury at the beginning of the trial that he shot Latonya Holden’s parents, Sylvester and Angelia Taylor, and beat and shot her at the Taylors home on April 9, 2014. But Hambouger said Holden had not planned to commit the crimes in advance and therefore was not guilty of first-degree murder.
The jury agreed on the question of premeditation, but found Holden guilty of first-degree murder anyway, because the crimes were committed during the course of another felony – the attempt to kill his wife.
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The guilty verdict means Holden faces the possibility of being put to death. The sentencing phase in the case will begin Tuesday morning with opening statements by the prosecutors and defense attorneys. Both sides will then present evidence and witnesses to help determine if Holden should be sentenced to death or life in prison.
Holden, outfitted in a orange and white-striped jail jumpsuit, was quiet during the reading of the verdicts and remained stoic when a bailiff led him out of the courtroom. By contrast, family members gathered around Latonya Holden and hugged one another closely in the front row of the courtroom.
Nathan and Latonya Holden had been married for a decade and had three children together. But their marriage was coming apart in late 2013, and Latonya Holden told her husband she wanted a divorce and moved in with her parents in Wendell.
The two struggled over custody issues, and Latonya Holden said he had threatened to kill her and harm their children. She persuaded a Wake County judge to issue a domestic violence protective order in January 2014. In applying for protection, she let Wake County officials know her husband had a gun, but a Wake deputy failed to confiscate it when he went to Nathan Holden’s home to serve the order.
Prosecutors say on the day of the shootings, Holden had brought his teenage son to the Taylors’ house, then went inside the house, where he shot Angelia Taylor. When Sylvester Taylor came running toward the house from the yard, prosecutors say Holden shot him.
Latonya Holden huddled her children, then ages 8, 9 and 15, inside the back bedroom closet. Prosecutors say Holden came into the bedroom, hit his estranged wife on the head with the butt of his gun, then fired a shot at her face that glanced off a tooth. As Latonya Holden begged from her knees, prosecutors said, Holden fired two more shots, one that pierced his wife’s chest.
Prosecutors say that after the shooting, Holden opened the closet door where his children were and handed a phone to his son. The children called 911, and Holden fled with the gun to the field behind his house, where investigators later found him.