It was almost six years ago that Patrick Holland kissed his mother good night for the last time and went to bed in a room with Sesame Street curtains and Power Ranger dolls.
Hours later, while the 8-year-old slept, his father smashed through a downstairs window of the Quincy, Mass., home, beat Elizabeth Holland with the butt of a .22-caliber rifle and shot her dead.
"I was wondering why my mom hadn't woken me up for school," Patrick, now 14, wrote in January on a Web site established as a memorial to his mother. When he entered her room, he wrote, he saw her "bloody, beaten body."
"I was in shock," he continued. "I tried to wake her up."
Monday the teenager will ask a Massachusetts judge to terminate his father's parental rights -- the rough legal equivalent of a divorce -- in a case with few precedents that could be decided this week.
Daniel Holland is serving a life sentence for murder in a Shirley, Mass., prison. But as far as Patrick is concerned, his father is still too involved in his life. Holland occasionally requests information from Patrick's counselors and seeks updates on his son's grades and baseball games, which permanent guardians Ron and Rita Lazisky say they are legally obligated to provide.
The Laziskys, who were Patrick's mother's close friends, agreed in a custody settlement with his grandparents not to adopt Patrick before 2005. Holland's parental rights must be severed for the adoption to go through.
"It would mean a lot to us but mostly to Patrick to be able to cut that off completely," said Ron Lazisky, in whose Sandown, N.H., home the boy has lived for five years. "He needs this for his emotional closure."
At the request of lawyers for both Patrick and his father, the trial will be closed to the public. Lazisky declined to make Patrick available to be interviewed for this story, citing a request from the teenager's attorney, Brian Clerkin, that he not speak to the media so close to the trial.
Neither Clerkin nor Daniel Holland's lawyer Patricia Gorman returned repeated telephone calls last week.
The case is unusual because Patrick, and not his guardians, is petitioning to sever ties with his biological father. "It is a very important case because it represents the concept that children should have a say in important legal matters affecting them," said Howard Davidson, director of the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law.
He said the court would look at two legal criteria: whether grounds for termination were established by "clear and convincing evidence" and whether termination of Holland's parental rights is in Patrick's best interest.
Unlike some states, Massachusetts does not have a statute that requires termination of parental rights in the case of a domestic murder. Denise Monteiro, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Social Services, which is a party to Patrick's petition, said she is aware of only a few cases in which a child had sued to sever ties with a parent.
In trials in 1992 and 1993, two Florida children terminated the rights of their parents. One of the cases, involving Gregory Kingsley, who was 12 years old at the time, was overturned on appeal.
Before the Department of Social Services agreed to take on Patrick's case, Commissioner Harry Spence interviewed him one-on-one. "He wanted to make sure Patrick felt he'd never want to reverse this," Monteiro said. "After meeting with him, he was very convinced."
According to Lazisky and the account Patrick wrote on the Web site, his father had abused the boy and his mother for years, repeatedly beating and threatening Elizabeth Holland and once locking Patrick in a closet for several hours. "You are the essence of everything that is wrong in this world," Patrick wrote in a message to his father on the Web site. "You are not my father. . . . You have ruined my life, robbed me of a home, a life, and a mother."
Patrick has sought unsuccessfully to end his legal relationship to Daniel Holland for more than two years. In 2002, the father contacted Lazisky for information about his son. Lazisky said he wanted to refuse, but was told that because Holland still had parental rights, he was obligated to comply. His response was what he considered the minimum necessary to satisfy the law.
"I said he's doing good at school, great at counseling and awesome at baseball," Lazisky said.
Lazisky said Patrick was furious about the incident and asked Lazisky to hire a lawyer so that his father could no longer gain access to such information. They filed a petition in a New Hampshire court on Patrick's behalf, but after five continuances and 11/2 years of waiting, the judge dismissed the case in February, saying there was no legal standing because the crime took place in Massachusetts.
They started over before Judge Robert Langlois in Norfolk County Probate Court in Canton, Mass., a few months ago. Daniel Holland will be in the courtroom throughout most of the proceedings, which begin Monday, but will watch on a video monitor when Patrick testifies.
Once the case is decided, Patrick still must contend with at least two other legal actions. His maternal grandfather, Robert McCrocklin, the administrator of his mother's estate, filed a $100,000 wrongful death suit against Daniel Holland, which his attorney said is on hold pending Holland's appeal of his murder conviction. Patrick is the sole beneficiary of his mother's estate. A telephone call to McCrocklin's Fairfax home was not returned.
Daniel Holland has also filed suit against the estate, alleging that some assets from his wife's estate have not been turned over to Patrick.
"There are items of value that do not appear on the inventory of the estate, and Mr. Holland is simply trying to ensure that his son receives the assets he is due. He has nothing to gain by this," said Mark Gillis, who represents Daniel Holland in the dispute over the estate.
Lazisky said that separating from his father is Patrick's main priority. "Once that's out of the way, he can go on with his life," Lazisky said.