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Wanda Holloway Trial: 1991

Tapes Lead To Conviction

The trial began on August 23, 1991. Prosecutors called upon school administrators, who testified that Holloway had taken her daughter's rejections0 from cheerleading far less gracefully than Shanna had. A high school friend of Shanna's brother, Shane, recalled that Mrs. Holloway once asked him if he would kill Verna Heath.

The most damaging witness for the prosecution was Holloway herself, whose voice was recorded during her meetings with Terry Harper. HollowayWith Harper on the witness stand, prosecutors played the conversations recorded by the Houston police. The tapes revealed Holloway's obsessive hatred of Verna and Amber Heath. She agreed to the price of $2,500 that Harper told her a fictitious hit man would charge to eliminate Verna Heath—$5,000 less than the asking price for killing both mother and daughter.

"You want her dead?" Harper asked.

"I don't care what you do with her. You can keep her in Cuba for 15 years," Holloway snapped. "I want her gone." Holloway gave Harper a pair of diamond earrings as partial payment for the deadly contract.

The defense countered that Harper had plotted with his brother Tony to gain custody of the divorced couple's teenagers. Ironically, this theory was proposed in court by Terry Harper's wife, Marla. Her rambling testimony for the defense, however, merely convinced observers that both her first and second marriage to Harper were acrimonious, drunken disasters. The defense also tried to cast doubt on Terry Harper's veracity by making his police record an issue. These attacks were blunted by the prosecution's opening statement and Harper's own eager testimony, during which no secret was made of his checkered employment history and arrests for driving while intoxicated, disturbing the peace, and drug possession.

When Wanda Holloway took the stand in her own defense, she admitted that she had unwisely said many angry things about the Heaths. She tearfully insisted that the plot to murder Verna Heath had been Harper's idea and that she had not backed out of the plan because she was afraid of him. Under cross-examination by the prosecution, however, she admitted that she had never informed the police about what she claimed were Harper's harmful intentions.

The jury was unconvinced by her histrionics. They found Holloway guilty on September 3 and recommended a sentence of 15 years in prison, intentionally choosing the same number of years she had blithely suggested that Verna Heath might be forced to spend in Cuba. Holloway was also fined $10,000. Despite this attempt at poetic justice, Holloway spent less than a day behind bars. The jurors were unaware that Texas law allows a felon sentenced to a term of 15 years or less to post an appeal bond, making a conditional release possible. Holloway made her $75,000 bond and was free almost immediately.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Wanda Holloway Trial: 1991 - Tapes Lead To Conviction, Plea Agreement Ends Second Trial