Holley, a husband and father of four, was known both for his contagious laughter and for his serious side — someone who kept a Bible at his desk. After his final retirement in 2009, he settled into a job handling the finances at his Prince William County church.
Jonathan Holley, 20, said when he first heard his father had been shot he was so angry he wanted to track down the killer himself. He said his mother, Lorita, had to hold him down.
But those thoughts have since become more “mixed.” He said in a recent interview he now realizes, “Whether [the killer] gets life or the death penalty or whatever, there’s nothing that can really bring my dad back.”
Gregory Holley was on one of his regular walks with his dog Nikita, a black-and-white pointy-eared Shiba Inu, about 9:40 p.m. when he was attacked. Police said they think Smith, who lived only blocks away, was a stranger who was looking for someone to rob.
Police said a neighbor called 911 after hearing gunshots, and Smith was arrested after a struggle with an off-duty Prince William police officer who was working a private security job nearby and heard the call on the radio.
During a Tuesday hearing in Prince William County Circuit Court, Judge Richard B. Potter appointed attorneys Joseph T. Flood and Barry Zweig to represent Smith. They declined to comment.
Under Virginia law, capital murder carries only two possible punishments, life in prison without parole or death. Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert said he has not decided whether to seek the death penalty if Smith is convicted.
“It’s a heinous, senseless crime, ” Ebert said. “I feel like justice demands that charge be brought.”
Gregory Holley was a family man, so devoted that he flew to Hawaii and Washington state to perform his son Christopher’s Army reenlistment ceremonies. At work he was calming and professional, colleagues said, but also laughed so hard he brought them and himself to tears.
Jonathan Holley said he had no idea how many people his father had touched until his death brought a packed memorial service and many notes of sympathy.
“He was my father, he was everything, he taught me how to be a man,” Jonathan said. Hearing about his father’s influence “made him even more brilliant in my eyes.”
Christopher, 38, the oldest of Holley’s sons, said he was serving in the Army in Arizona in 1996 when he was called to his sergeant’s office. His stern commanding officer asked whether he had a family member in the Army and whether that person was a lieutenant colonel. He said yes to both.