SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP / BCN) — San Francisco prosecutors filed murder charges Monday against a parolee accused of posing as a utility worker to get inside the Russian Hill apartment of a publicist who was robbed and killed.
Gary Scott Holland was charged with one count each of murder, robbery and attempted rape and two counts of burglary. The 43-year-old, who was being held in the San Francisco County jail, was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.
Authorities alleged that on Oct. 29, Holland gained access to 46-year-old Kathleen ‘Kate’ Horan’s second-floor apartment at 900 Chestnut Street after claiming he was checking on a gas leak.
District Attorney Kamala Harris said Holland “was a true predator,” noting that he was on parole for attempted murder and burglary convictions involving a similar offense that happened in Fresno in 1999.
Horan was found dead inside her apartment early on the morning of Oct. 30, after police responded to a request for a well-being check from someone who knew her.
Investigators suspect she was murdered about 7 p.m. the previous night. The official cause of her death has not yet been released, but authorities have called it a bludgeoning attack.
Horan’s murderer had posed as a utility worker checking on a gas leak in the neighborhood, police and prosecutors said.
Harris said Holland came to Horan’s door dressed as a utility worker and “essentially duped her into opening the door, upon which he committed these heinous acts.”
“I’m very happy that this predator’s off the street,” SFPD Assistant Chief Jeff Godown said Monday.
Though police and prosecutors have not specified what his alleged motive was, Harris said that DNA results would be among the evidence that “plays a very strong role” in obtaining a conviction.
Police said that Holland may have suffered an injury to his left hand when Horan fought back during the encounter. They also indicated that items belonging to Horan were found outside her apartment.
In addition, police said the green utility vest that Holland allegedly used to impersonate a utility worker was recovered near the crime scene.
Holland was detained Friday after officers in the city’s Richmond District spotted him lying on the ground in some bushes at Sutro Heights Park overlooking the ocean.
Richmond Station Capt. Richard Corriea and two other officers, Officer Francis Feliciano and Lt. Mark Mahoney, saw Holland on the ground at the park, located near 48th and Point Lobos avenues, and went to check on him, Corriea said Monday.
“We just happened to be out in the area and noticed him,” Corriea said.
“In fairly short order, questions began to arise about who he was and what he was doing there,” Corriea continued. “When he came back as a parolee for a violent felony, the level of focus increased.”
Homicide inspectors later booked Holland for murder.
Corriea called the fortuitous arrest a combination of “quick intuition and just being at the right place at the right time.”
Both Harris and Godown took the opportunity at Monday’s news conference to remind residents that they should always attempt to verify the identity of workers asking for access to the home.
Harris implied Holland might have been trying to take advantage of Bay Area residents’ worries about the fragility of gas pipelines following the recent PG&E disaster in San Bruno.
She said Holland “put himself out in a position of trust so that (Horan) opened that door.”
“Any one of us would have done what she did that day,” Harris said.
Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Horan’s uncle John Horan said the family was gratified by the arrest.
“We’re just very pleased with the San Francisco homicide detectives,” Horan said.
“They kept us in the loop all the way around when this whole situation started,” he said. “They told us unequivocally that they would catch this person, and then they followed up when things were going along, and they got him.”
According to Horan, his niece had just returned on the evening of her death from a trip to Argentina with her mother, and had been expecting a visitor that night when the suspect came to her door.
“She made a critical error, but it was also about thinking for her safety,” in terms of a possible gas leak, Horan said.
While the Horan family is still grieving, “At least (the arrest) might help other people by getting him off the street, and he can’t do it again,” Horan said.
“As a family, we’re relieved,” he said.
(Copyright 2010 by CBS Broadcasting Inc., Bay City News and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)