Paroled repeat offender convicted of rape and sodomy

Jackie Nunnery

by Jackie Nunnery

LANCASTER—According to multiple accounts, the defendant’s included, Ronald Edward Holmes Jr. had a troubled past that included 16 felony convictions and a life spent mostly behind bars. That institutionalized past and difficulties with reentry caught up with Holmes, who was convicted on Friday, December 2, by a jury in Lancaster County Circuit Court of the rape and sodomy of a Lancaster woman, referred to as CB in the original complaint.

A life interrupted and institutionalized

After pleading guilty to five counts of aggravated sexual battery in Stafford County in 1998, Holmes was a free man by October 2020, a mandatory release date based on old parole laws according to Lancaster Commonwealth’s Attorney Anthony Spencer. After spending the first few months with a relative in Luray, he began staying with his father, Ronald Holmes Sr. and his wife, CB, at their Lancaster home in February 2021. During the three-day trial, CB testified that “Junior” as he is sometimes referred, restrained her and raped her on May 24, 2021, in their home after months of increasing tension as they tried to help him build a life outside of a prison. In addition to purchasing a truck, helping provide employment, and helping him complete everyday errands like opening a bank account, the couple tried to “expose him to different things in a normal life” like yoga classes, volunteer work and attending concerts.

As the situation worsened, fueled by family dynamics and Holmes’ frustrations trying to navigate an unfamiliar world, they sought help from a prisoner reentry specialist in early May, 2021. Lisa Kratz Thomas, an author and convicted felon, has used her experience to help develop legislation at the state level to address prisoner reentry. Thomas testified that at a meeting with Holmes Sr., CB, her son, and Holmes, he appeared “frustrated” and “not receptive to suggestions” about strategies to gain independence, although under cross examination by defense attorney Charles McKerns, Thomas said such frustration “was not unusual.”

All of the assistance the couple provided had the opposite effect. Instead of motivating, it pushed Holmes to tell his sister Deborah, “I don’t want to be treated like a kid no more.” In that phone call, recorded by Holmes during the week of May 24, he can also be heard saying “I can’t live here no more.” Holmes said he had installed the motion-activated recorder, unbeknownst to the homeowners, because he was concerned about people coming into his room.

Despite those comments, Holmes claimed on the stand that CB was the pursuer in a consensual relationship that began in April. This also contradicted initial statements made to Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office investigator Deputy Johnny Smithart after his arrest on Friday, May 28. In the recorded interview, Holmes repeatedly said there was “nothing physical” and he “never touched her” before changing his story to include a sexual relationship. “She’s always trying to mess with me. She had problems with my dad and she turned to me,” he said.

A plan is made

Part of the defense strategy was based on the three-day delay in reporting the crime. Under cross examination by McKerns, CB said when the rape occurred that morning, she was “worried that he would kill me or his father” who was at the other end of the house taking a shower, so her focus was getting him out of the house. She then continued with her day “as if nothing had happened.” CB said she didn’t report the rape earlier because she was “in a fog.”

Delays in reporting are not uncommon according to Ruth Micklem with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She testified that in dealing with “hundreds” of sexual assault victims it was “common for them to delay reporting,” anywhere from “hours to years.”

Over the next two days, she continued to formulate a plan for getting Holmes safely out of the house “without anyone else getting hurt,” said CB. By Wednesday, the façade of acting “as if nothing had happened” began to crack. She called a “prayer warrior” friend to ask for prayers, but did not elaborate with her on why. She did the same with her son the following day, calling him in Florida where he lived at the time. Sensing something was wrong and that it concerned Holmes, her son encouraged her to reach out to Thomas for guidance.

It was during that conversation that CB first admitted she had been raped by Holmes, although she asked Thomas not to tell anyone. Thomas broke that promise, contacting CB’s son, who flew to Virginia, arriving on Thursday morning. Her son made plans with CB for dinner and an overnight stay in Richmond, but once together, her son instead drove her to the sheriff’s office. CB would instead end up spending Thursday evening filing a complaint and being examined in an emergency room by what is referred to as a SANE nurse or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.

A report taken during that exam did not note any bruising. Defense attorney Steve Barnett asserted that the lack of injury was further proof that no attack took place. However, Ashley Balcombe, the SANE nurse who examined CB that night said, “it was not unusual for there to not be signs of trauma.”

Wanting to protect her husband by avoiding an arrest at the home, CB told Smithart that father and son would be at Rappahannock General Hospital (RGH) the following morning for a scheduled appointment. Holmes Sr. testified that on Thursday night Holmes was “very nervous and very upset” that CB was not around, so much so that he spent that night sleeping behind a “locked door with a pistol on the nightstand.” Holmes Sr. said that on the way to RGH the following morning, Holmes commented that if he was ever arrested again, “he wasn’t going to roll over, he was going to fight it.” A short while later, sitting in the hospital parking lot waiting for a test, Holmes Sr. said he wondered aloud what was going on when he saw multiple sheriff’s office vehicles moving in. He said Holmes replied, “they’re here to get me.”

Not just he said, she said

Although the defense referred to this as a “he said, she said case,” it was not without physical evidence. DNA from both CB and Holmes were found on wipes and sanitary napkins that CB used and threw out after the rape occurred. According to the lab, one sample that included Holmes’ DNA was from seminal fluid, the other from another body fluid.

The verdict

It took the jury two hours to reach a unanimous verdict and Holmes appeared agitated as the jury was polled for their verdict. Judge R. Michael McKenney commented that “these cases are very difficult” and urged the jurors to “take some time to allow this to get behind you” before thanking them for their service and dismissing them.

As the jurors were exiting the courtroom, Holmes, in a familiar pattern of anger and frustration over the course of the trial, leaned back in his chair and turned toward his father saying, “I hope you got what you wanted” and something else unintelligible before a bailiff stood between the men. Holmes later apologized to the court for his outbursts during the trial before being lead away.

At age 55, it is highly unlikely that Holmes need ever be concerned about reentry again. In addition to each of these charges carrying a sentence of five years to life in prison, there is also the 35-year suspended sentence on his previous five convictions in Stafford County. According to Spencer, the community will be safer because of that. “We are so thankful for the jury’s verdict. What we could not tell them is that Holmes had abducted a woman at knife-point 24 years ago, thrown her in a van, tied her up, said he would kill her if she screamed, then raped and sodomized her repeatedly. The victim in this case was enjoying an active and well-earned retirement when her husband’s son needed help. She is so kind and thoughtful of others, she agreed to bring her stepson into their home to help him re-enter society after 23 years in prison. But Ronald E. Holmes Jr. is too broken to be fixed. He raped his own stepmother and will rape again if given the chance. He needs to stay in prison.”

Sentencing will take place at 9 a.m. April 14.