A man was sentenced Wednesday to more than 34 years in prison for killing his mother and dismembering her body in February 2017 at their Vancouver home.
Kenneth Jay Moore, 48, was convicted by a Clark County Superior Court jury June 11 of first-degree murder, with an enhancement for an egregious lack of remorse, in the death of Leisa A. Holt, and second-degree assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer. The assault conviction stems from Moore pointing a rifle at a responding officer, which initiated a SWAT response.
Holt and her boyfriend, Jeff Hesterley, were approaching seven months as a couple. After a Valentine’s Day lunch and some shopping, Holt, 60, is presumed to have headed home and was not seen alive again.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu had told the jury that in a three-day window, Moore killed Holt, by strangulation and stabbing, and cut up her body for disposal. Her legs were found wrapped in trash bags in the kitchen, and her torso was located on a cutting board in a shower stall with cutting instruments still on top of her.
Moore’s fingerprints were found on the tape used to package his mother’s legs, and his DNA was found on a knife that had Holt’s blood, hair and DNA on it, Vu said.
“It was a terrible, horrific, tragic crime,” Vu said Wednesday. “Everything she did was for her son, for the defendant, and this is how he repaid her.”
Vu argued that Moore, known as a recluse, was angry at his mother, who tended to him as he lived in her house, likely over her love interest. Holt’s body was discovered Feb. 17, 2017, after her boyfriend and police conducted a welfare check.
On Wednesday, Hesterley said the slaying caused him to be “consumed by sadness.” He added that Holt was “an extraordinarily loving, caring person.”
“Despite this heinous crime, Leisa would tell you she wouldn’t regret taking him in and opening her home to him because that’s who she was,” Hesterley said.
Hesterley called Moore’s crime “cold and calculated.”
“What Kenneth Moore did was not a crime of passion or aggression. It is who he is,” Hesterley said. “The only place for a dangerous animal such as this is in a cage and away from people.”
Caitlin Carter, Holt’s granddaughter, was 18 years old at the time of the murder. Carter said she hadn’t known her grandmother for much of her life but was hoping to form a deeper relationship. On Wednesday, she discussed the methodical manner in which her grandmother was killed.
“I think the thing we haven’t talked about this whole time was how afraid she must have felt,” Carter said.
Former Vancouver police Officer Brett Bailey spoke about his experience having a rifle pointed at his head. After speaking with his family in the weeks following the incident, he decided to retire later that year.
“In that split second, I had to de-escalate, had to retreat to the back with my partners,” Bailey said. “It’s hard to describe, but I second-guessed everything I did back there.”
Defense attorney Louis Byrd Jr. read a statement Moore wrote down during the hearing. In it, Moore apologized to some who knew Holt and pointed fingers at several people, including his attorney and Judge Daniel Stahnke, who presided over the case.
“My great hope is that you, judge, are arraigned in an international court for high crimes against humanity so that I may find my mother’s assassin,” the statement read.
Vu asked for a 40-year sentence, which would have been nearly seven years above Moore’s standard sentencing range. Stahnke opted for the shorter sentence that is also above the standard range.
“It’s not going to do me any good to tell Mr. Moore how horrific his crimes really were,” Stahnke said. “What happened to Leisa was really not fair. What happened in that house back in February of 2017 was sickening.”