crimes and consequences

The Murder of Cassie Holden

jonathan gentry

n early June 1988, the 12-year-old Cassie Holden lived with her father and stepmother in Pocatello, Idaho. On June 11, 1988, she traveled to Kitsap County, Washington, to spend the summer with her mother at her mother’s home near Bremerton. On June 13, 1988, Cassie went to a store to get her father a gift for Father’s Day. After returning home around 4:30 pm, she decided to go for a walk, telling her mother she would be home by 6:00 pm for dinner. She never made it home.
Her body was found early June 15, 1988, behind a large log at the bottom of a path running from a trail through a wooded area adjacent to Rolling Hills Golf Course, near Bremerton, Washington. Cassie’s eyeglasses, earring and a bouquet of flowers were found approximately 148 feet up the footpath on and near the main trail. Evidence suggested that Cassie was picking flowers when she was attacked. A struggle ensued and Cassie was chased through the woods, eventually overpowered by her killer.

During the struggle, Cassie’s earring was torn from her ear. She apparently fought her attacker, who inflicted approximately 10 “significant” injuries. Two of the head injuries were serious enough to cause death by themselves. One of these was struck after the Cassie’s sweatshirt had been pulled up over her face. The final blow could well have been made after she had been placed behind the large log where her body was eventually found. A depression in the soil under her head was 2 to 3 inches deep “like a significant force had been applied to her head to push it down into the soil”. Blood from Cassie’s wounds had seeped into the ground to a depth of 10 inches. A long stick appeared to have broken beneath her head in that spot, and the stick, which was partly against the log, had a hand- or fingerprint on it  that was not readable but that could have been made by Cassie.

Cassie appeared to have been sexually assaulted, as her jeans and underpants were pulled down and her T-shirt and bra pulled up. Her blue sweatshirt had been removed from one arm and pulled up, partially covering her face. She had been struck in the head approximately 8 to 15 times, suffering 10 “significant” injuries.

Cassie HoldenKitsap County sheriff deputies investigated the murder scene and determined that a trail of blood was splattered from the main trail, down the footpath about 148 feet to where the body was found. They found a 2.2-pound rock that had blue fibers crushed into it. The fibers matched the fibers in the victim’s sweatshirt. The rock also had red spots on it that appeared to be blood. The rock was believed to be the murder weapon.

The autopsy showed that the victim had been killed by one of the blows to her head. The results of the autopsy could not show the order in which the blows were received or which blow actually killed the victim.

Witness F.B. was a bicyclist who had ridden the trails in the wooded area near Rolling Hills Golf Course a number of times. On June 13, 1988, the day of the homicide, he and a friend went to the area after work and rode the main trail from Riddell Road, south of the golf course, to the golf course and back. F.B. then traveled from Riddell Road, along the main trail to McWilliams Road. During this last time across the path, at approximately 5:30 p.m., he saw an African American man standing just off the main trail. This man was later identified as Jonathan Gentry and he was arrested for the murder.

Witness B.D. had been incarcerated in the Kitsap County Jail with Jonathan in the summer of 1988 as he awaited trial. He testified that he and Jonathan were playing cards when detectives arrived to take samples of Jonathan’s hair in connection with the investigation of Cassie’s murder. B.D. testified that when Jonathan returned to the card game, Jonathan said, “They found my hair on the bitch.” When B.D. asked Jonathan whether he had killed the young girl, he said that he had but that they could not prove it.

Witness T.H. had been incarcerated with the Defendant at the Washington State Correctional Center at Shelton in December 1989 and January 1990. He testified that Jonathan told him that he had killed a 12-year-old girl who lived across the street from his brother’s house because he thought she was leading him on. This statement was made, according to T.H., during a card game and others, including inmate L.S., were present. L.S. testified that Jonathan also told him that he had killed his girlfriend and disposed of her body too.

The jury found Jonathan guilty of premeditated first degree murder and of felony murder. The jury additionally found that the murder was committed to conceal the identity of a person committing a crime, thus finding an aggravating circumstance which subjected Jonathan to the possibility of a death sentence.  After five hours of deliberation, a jury sentenced Jonathan to death.


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