The Disappearance of Courtney Holden

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EARLY LIFE:

Courtney Holden was born on February 28, 1992. When she was young, she was entered into the foster care system and was soon placed into the home of Judy Holden. Not long after, she was adopted by the family.

Judy and her husband were known for taking in foster children. According to one former man who lived with the family while in the foster care system, the family had initially began taking in children as a form of monetary gain, but had later turned toward abusing those placed in their care.

At the time of her disappearance, Courtney was living with Judy, her son, and her adoptive brother, Joshua, who had moved back to the family home in 2014 after his parents divorced.  The four lived on east Heroy Avenue in northeast Spokane, Washington, near Rogers High School.

Joshua was known by friends and family as being violent and angry, and for displaying erratic behaviour. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had an extensive arrest record, which included unlawful imprisonment, domestic violence and a conviction for burglary. He’d also bee twice accused of rape, once in 2003 and another time in 2005. In the latter case, police were in the midst of obtaining DNA evidence when the victim stopped cooperating with prosecutors.

Judy and Joshua were known to refer to Courtney as “Cindy” – short for “Cinderella” – in reference to the amount of household chores they made her do. She wasn’t allowed to leave the house during the daytime, so would only be seen in the evening hours whilst doing yard chores, and Joshua had installed numerous security cameras outside the house, which were pointed in different directions. This resulted in Courtney becoming isolated from those around her, as she was prevented from interacting with neighbours and friends both in-person and online. This was enforced by Joshua, who wouldn’t allowed her a cellphone, access to a car or to create profiles on social media.

Neighbours have reported that Courtney confided in them numerous times regarding her fear of Joshua and his overbearing rules. One regularly noticed bruising on her, which she attributed to Joshua beating her, and another said Courtney would ring them in the middle of the night, crying, to tell them how out of control Joshua had become.

Visitors have also noted that Courtney’s son was told to call Judy, “Mom” and Joshua, “Daddy”, while Courtney herself was addressed by her first name. Judy and Joshua would also call Courtney’s son “Forest”, which is not his legal name. According to Courtney Clay, the girlfriend of Courtney’s biological brother, Joshua insisted she be called by an alias while in the Holden residence, as to not confuse or upset the child.

DISAPPEARANCE:

The last time anyone outside the Holdens recalls seeing Courtney is sometime during the summer of 2018. One neighbour recalls seeing her leave the house, carrying a large duffel bag. Judy had chased after her, telling her to come back, to which Courtney had responded, “I’m not staying here anymore.” The incident ended with Joshua forcibly picking Courtney up and carrying her back inside the residence.

Around the time she was last seen, a neighbour reported seeing Joshua set up spotlights in the backyard for two nights in a row while he constructed a swing set. This had struck them as odd, as he was building it in the middle of the night.

Courtney had been taking prescription medication for about a year or two prior to her disappearance, for which she would get a refill every one or two months. She last refilled the prescription in July 2018, and it’s been noted that she hadn’t seen a doctor since October 2017.

Whenever people inquired about Courtney’s whereabouts, Joshua and Judy would offer up different explanations, including that she was off travelling with a boyfriend who worked as a long-range truck driver; that she had run off with a fiancé; and that she was in the house, but did not wish speak with or see anyone.

Courtney was not reported missing until October 8, 2019, a year and a half after she was last seen. Autumn Schatz, who was dating the father of Courtney’s son, had contacted police to ask for a welfare check on Courtney, as she hadn’t seen or heard from her in approximately two years. According to reports, Courtney had full custody of her son, as her ex-boyfriend had been dealing with substance abuse issues and an emergency regarding another of his children. When police arrived at the home, they found Joshua and Judy would not cooperate. All they would reveal was that Courtney had left a few days prior, on foot, with her son.

That same day, a missing persons report was written up and the case was put in the charge of the Spokane Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit.

SEARCH:

The day the missing persons report was filed, Joshua and Judy withdrew $600 from Courtney’s chequing account. That same day, a woman claiming to be Courtney contacted Crime Line and spoke with a police dispatcher. However, this turned out to be her adoptive sister, who, when asked, would not reveal why she had pretended to be Courtney.

On October 9, 2019, Autumn further spoke with investigators and told them she’d seen Courtney’s son every time she’d visited the Holden residence over the past year and a half. However, she had not seen Courtney.

On October 10, 2019, Judy reluctantly allowed police officers into her home, where they came across an extreme amount of clutter, with items covering every open space on the counters. They looked in Courtney’s room and found  that, along with being just as cluttered as the rest of the house, the bed was bare of sheets and blankets. According to investigators, Judy was quite nervous while they were in the home and had panicked upon losing sight of one of them being a closed door. They were barred from looking inside Courtney’s son’s room, and were told to leave not long after.

Security footage was uncovered, which showed Joshua, Judy and a small child purchasing groceries using Courtney’s food stamps.

At one point, police officers stopped by the home to discuss Courtney’s disappearance, and Joshua told them he wasn’t able to talk, as he was taking care of a sick cat. Those present said it was obvious that he hadn’t wanted them entering the home.

On October 24, 2019, a search warrant was executed on the Holden residence. It was discovered Joshua and Judy had moved away, taking with them their six pets and the DVR from the home’s surveillance system. The search uncovered 82 pieces of evidence, including Courtney’s ID cards, numerous computers, 18 cellphones, handwritten blackmail notes and the missing woman’s journal. Police would later search the home with cadaver dogs, but nothing of value was uncovered.

In Mid-November 2019, cellphone numbers associated with Joshua and Judy were deactivated. However, two new ones with Texas area codes were activated the same day.

A month after Joshua and Judy left Spokane, a neighbour called police to say there was activity at the pair’s home. It turned out to be Judy’s daughter and her husband, who had flown up from Texas to check on the home. They told investigators that they hadn’t seen Courtney in two years and that Judy was off on a retirement road trip. There was a contradiction in their stories when it came to the location of Courtney’s son. While Judy’s daughter said he was with Courtney, her husband revealed the child was actually in the company of Judy and Joshua.

On December 19, 2019, police located Joshua and Judy living with a relative in Plano, Texas. Courtney’s son was with them and was swiftly placed in the care of Child Protective Services before being returned to his father. The pair were arrested with the aid of other police agencies and were charged with identity theft, for accessing Courtney’s bank account, and custodial interference, in relation to the concealment of her son.

Upon their arrest, the two were booked into Collins County Jail. Joshua would later be moved to Oklahoma, while Judy would wind up locked up in Nevada.

Despite searching through where the Holdens had been staying in Texas, investigators were unable to find anything that would help them uncover Courtney’s location. They also searched other properties associated with the pair, but again came up empty.

According to authorities, they are not pursuing charges against other family members, whom they found impersonating Courtney during phone calls with police and communicating with Joshua from jail regarding hiding some of his personal belongings.

Police searched a vehicle and travel trailer belonging to Judy. It was located at a RV park in Oklahoma, where Judy and Joshua had checked in under false names in November 2019.

In March 2020, a Spokane lawyer took on the case, in defence of Joshua and Judy. He requested the court release the pair from custody, as at the time they were fighting extradition back to Washington, and said they would willingly make their way to the state, in order to reveal the truth regarding Courtney’s whereabouts. While he would not provide any new information regarding her location, he did say he planned to find her as part of Judy and Joshua’s defence.

The lawyer argued that the judge order Judy’s release in light of the COVID-10 pandemic and remove Joshua’s felony warrant, so he wouldn’t be re-arrested. While the judge wouldn’t quash Joshua’s warrant, he did say that Judy could be released if the Spokane Police Department could confirm that Courtney’s son was safe.

That same month, Joshua was released from federal custody in Oklahoma due to heath concerns, in light of coronavirus outbreaks occurring in American prisons. He was returned to jail in Texas.

Police have spent months interviewing witnesses in order to determine what exactly was happening within the Holden residence at the time of Courtney’s disappearance. They have publicly stated they believe Courtney to be deceased, as their investigation has not turned up any evidence to show the opposite. Her friends also feel this to be the case. Joshua and Judy remain the primary – and only – suspects in the ongoing investigation.

THEORIES:

1) The only theory in the case is that Judy and Joshua Holden are responsible for Courtney’s disappearance, which was likely the result of a homicide. This is due to numerous factors, including the physical abuse Courtney faced from Joshua, his past criminal charges and his controlling nature. Family members have also shared that he once stated he could successfully kill a person and hide their body from police. When paired with both he and Judy’s unwillingness to cooperate with the investigation and them allegedly fleeing not long after the missing persons report was filed, many involved with the case feel the pair had a hand in what happened to Courtney.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Courtney Corrinna Holden was last seen in Spokane, Washington during the summer of 2018. At the time of her disappearance, was 26 years old, stood between 5’5″ and 5’7″ and weighed approximately 150 to 170 pounds. She’s of Native American heritage, with black hair and brown eyes.

Currently, her case is classified as endangered missing. If alive, she would be 28 years old.

Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Spokane Police Department at 509-755-2489 or Crime Check at 509-456-2233.

Image Credit: KXLY

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1 comments on “The Disappearance of Courtney Holden”

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