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Man accused of killing parents, sons, pet dog could face death penalty

Man accused of killing parents, sons, pet dog could face death penalty
Investigators remove a body from a Santa Barbara County home where four people were found stabbed to death. (Steve Malone / Associated Press)

A Santa Barbara County man indicted for allegedly fatally stabbing his parents, children and pet dog to death in August could face the death penalty, prosecutors said.

Nicolas Holzer, 45, was indicted by the grand jury Tuesday on four counts of murder and one count of felony animal cruelty in the gruesome slaying of his family and their pet Aug. 11.

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Holzer is also accused of special circumstances in the crime, specifically using a knife and multiple murders. Because of the special circumstances, Holzer is eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors have not yet determined if they'll seek it, said Assistant Dist. Atty. Hilary Dozer.

"It's almost a solemn type of procedure. We take those types of decisions very seriously," Dozer told the Los Angeles Times. "Any decision that is made to seek the death penalty is based upon as complete a picture as one can put together."

The decision will ultimately fall to Dist. Atty. Joyce Dudley, but others — including senior prosecutors and law enforcement personnel involved in the case — may weigh in. Even Holzer's defense attorney can offer mitigating evidence, Dozer said.

Holzer was arrested after authorities said he called police and calmly told them he had killed his family. He was waiting at the front door when officers arrived, authorities said.

When sheriff's deputies entered the home, they found the bodies of William Holzer, 73; Sheila Holzer, 74; Sebastian Holzer, 13; and Vincent Holzer, 10.

All of them, as well as the family's Australian shepherd, had been stabbed to death.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at the time that there did not appear to be a motive or "any event that would have preceded this terrible crime."

In interviews with detectives, Holzer allegedly said he "had to" do it to fulfill "what he believed was his destiny," according to officials.

Holzer had no previous contact with the Sheriff's Department beyond a 1996 assault case in which he was a witness. He doesn't have a criminal record and authorities said they had not been called to the home in the 600 block of Walnut Park in years.

Sheriff's Department officials said that Holzer obtained full custody of his sons nearly a decade ago, and that the three had been living at the home of Holzer's parents for seven years.

He is being held without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 28.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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