A 58-year-old man has been sentenced to between 18 and 45 years in prison for killing and dismembering a friend whose severed head was found in a stolen vehicle the ex-convict was driving in Las Vegas.
Eric Holland declared himself “truly remorseful” about the shooting death of 65-year-old Richard P Miller, whose remains were found in coolers in the back of a stolen Chevrolet Avalanche after a police chase.
Holland pleaded guilty on July 19 to a reduced charge — second-degree murder — and felony theft, avoiding trial on an open murder charge that could have resulted in a life sentence.
“It’s a terrible thing that happened and I’m just so sorry,” he said on Thursday.
With Mr Miller’s adult daughter in the courtroom and Mr Miller’s son listening on an audio link, Holland said he hoped authorities would continue to investigate his motive for the killing.
“I was going to bring it up in court, but I’m not going to because of family members,” he told Clark County District Court Judge Tierra Jones. “There was a reason, and I hope that they’ll get closure today.”
Holland’s lawyer, Daniel Westbrook, told the judge he would not say more than what his client said.
Mr Miller’s daughter, Amanda Dawn Potter, sobbed and haltingly addressed the judge.
“I feel very little relief,” she said, calling her father’s killing “the most bizarre thing to ever happen to my family”.
“I don’t know how to make sense of it,” she sobbed. “My dad didn’t deserve this.”
Holland was friends with Mr Miller, who lived on a houseboat at Lake Mead, the Colorado River reservoir about a 30-minute drive from Las Vegas.
Mr Miller was reported missing in November 2021, and investigators later determined he had been killed during an argument with Holland.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on Thursday that in jailhouse interviews, Holland said he wanted police to investigate whether Mr Miller was responsible for the disappearance of Mr Miller’s ex-wife, Jing Me Zhu, in 2018 or 2019.
“I’m going to prison for the rest of my life, and I just want to make sure that she wasn’t forgotten,” Holland told the newspaper.
He said he believed Ms Zhu lived in China and Canada before marrying Mr Miller in 2018. In divorce proceedings less than a year later, Mr Miller alleged in court documents that she had left him and moved to China. Records showed she could not be found to receive a court summons.
Mr Westbrook told the newspaper that Holland believes Ms Zhu is dead and that Mr Miller killed her.
Holland did not provide details of Mr Miller’s death, the Review-Journal reported.
The Clark County coroner found Mr Miller had been shot several times, including at least once in the head. His death was ruled a homicide.
Las Vegas police said Holland drove away from patrol officers trying to stop him on December 23 2021, in a stolen pick-up truck. They said that he was seen switching vehicles before he was arrested in the second vehicle as police tracked him to an apartment complex west of the Las Vegas Strip.
Police later found receipts in the vehicles for items including a power saw and waste bags bought from a home improvement store after Mr Miller’s disappearance.
Holland had been wanted since May 2019 on an arrest warrant in a 2018 case in Las Vegas accusing him of embezzlement, identity theft, issuing false cheques and theft, according to court records. He had posted 5,000 dollars bail in that case.
Records show he also used the name Eric Allen Holland and served prison time in Nevada for a theft conviction stemming from a 2000 forgery case in Las Vegas. He also used names including John Carl Hall, Phil Whidden, Robert Daniel Lauer and Steven Tauber, prison records show.
Holland had previous convictions dating to 1987 in California for embezzlement, assault with a deadly weapon, resisting arrest causing substantial bodily harm and property theft and false identification, according to a Las Vegas prosecutor, prison and court records.
Records also show that he was convicted in Texas in a federal counterfeiting case, and later of attempted escape and aiding in an escape.