Double murderer could face death penalty after plea change

TACOMA, Wash. -- A man who murdered his wife and 11-year-old daughter, changed his plea to guilty to two counts of aggravated first degree murder, a move that could lead to the death penalty.

Dean Holmes made the decision to change his plea in a Pierce County courtroom Tuesday.

The body of Holmes' wife Kristi and his daughter Violet were discovered in late August after Holmes walked into the Pierce County Jail early one morning and said he fatally shot his wife and child.

Prosecutors say Dean Holmes pulled a revolver from a dresser early the morning before and shot his wife of 12 years four times as she was sleeping in their bed. Violet was sleeping with a friend in the living room and didn't hear the gunshots due to the sound of a fan running nearby.

After the shooting, Holmes reloaded, then woke the girls and drove them to drop the friend off at her home in Auburn.

On his way home, Holmes pulled over and shot his daughter several times as she lay sleeping in the backseat. He then drove to a fast food restaurant, and ordered food through the drive-thru with his dead daughter in the backseat.

He returned home and put Violet's body next to his wife's then got back in the car and drove around aimlessly, prosecutors said. He decided the next morning to turn himself in.

Holmes told investigators he had put his family in dire financial straits and he was afraid his wife would leave him when she found out he had been lying about their finances. Financial records with the Department of Revenue show Dean Holmes owed more than $18,000 in unpaid taxes. He was also being sued by the owners of a home in Puyallup for unfinished work as part of his home painting business.

Holmes told detectives killed his daughter because he reasoned that she would be unable to cope with her mother's death and her father's imprisonment. He also told detectives that after he shot his wife and daughter, he wanted to also shoot himself and repeatedly placed the gun to his head, but he could not will himself to pull the trigger.

Prosecutors have until Nov. 20 to seek the death penalty. If they decide to do so, Holmes would go to a sentencing trial with a jury deciding his sentence

"The fact that the defendant took responsibility by pleading guilty as charged is a factor that I will consider in deciding whether or not to seek the death penalty, but other factors must be considered as well," said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

If prosecutors decline the death penalty option, Holmes will be sentenced Dec. 7 to life in prison without possibility of parole.