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Defense argues that man didn’t know body parts were in stolen pickup

The defense attorney for a man accused of dismembering a body found in a stolen vehicle shortly before Christmas on Tuesday questioned whether his client knew there were human remains in the back of the pickup.

“In order to believe that he had knowledge of what was inside that vehicle, you would have to believe that he intentionally led the police to the evidence,” Eric Holland’s defense attorney, David Westbrook, said following a bail hearing. “Why would he do that?”

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Harmony Letizia, however, found that prosecutors had shown enough evidence for Holland to be charged with murder with a deadly weapon, and kept him in custody without bail.

Holland, 57, was arrested Dec. 23 in connection with Richard Miller’s death. The 65-year-old’s dismembered body was found in a stolen truck that Holland was driving, according to a Metropolitan Police Department arrest report.

Miller died of multiple gunshot wounds, including a gunshot wound to the head, prosecutor Giancarlo Pesci said Tuesday.

About 3:42 p.m. on Dec. 23, police attempted to stop a man driving near Tropicana Avenue and Duneville Street in a Toyota Tundra that had been reported stolen, according to his arrest report.

The man drove away from police and entered a parking garage at 3700 West Flamingo Road, next to the Rio, the report said. “Shortly after,” police tracked a Chevrolet Avalanche, which had also been reported stolen, leaving the parking garage and driving southwest.

Police followed the truck to an apartment complex near Cameron Street and Harmon Avenue. The driver, who police identified as Holland, tried to run away but was stunned with a Taser and detained, the report said.

Officer Ricardo Auerbach testified Tuesday that he began searching the Chevrolet because it was a reported stolen vehicle. He found a cooler in the car that smelled like “fish or something decaying,” Auerbach said.

Inside the cooler was a severed human head, Pesci said. Other body parts were found in another cooler in the truck.

Westbrook argued that investigators should not have searched the truck before obtaining a search warrant, but Letizia rejected the claim. Pesci said police are allowed to do an “inventory search” before impounding a reported stolen vehicle if the registered owner is not there.

Although Westbrook argued that prosecutors did not have evidence that Holland knew of the body parts before taking the vehicle, Pesci noted that police investigators had obtained video of Holland inside a Home Depot purchasing a saw and trash bags.

After obtaining a search warrant, police found a revolver in the Toyota, and another handgun in a duffel bag taken from Holland when he was arrested. Investigators also found a Home Depot receipt from Nov. 23, more than a month before Holland’s arrest.

Pesci has said Holland has a criminal history dating to a juvenile record from the 1970s, including assault with a deadly weapon, assaulting a police officer causing substantial bodily harm and theft. It was unclear where Holland was charged with those crimes or whether he was convicted.

Court records show Holland has an open case from 2018 where he was charged with obtaining or using the personal identification of another person, embezzlement of a vehicle, intent to forge a check or bill and theft.

Letizia on Tuesday also noted that Holland has an arrest warrant from Texas, but indicated it is for a charge that would not be extraditable.

When arguing that Holland should not be released on bail, Pesci said there was evidence of premeditation in Miller’s death, and that Holland was a danger to the community.

“I don’t know how much more dangerous it gets then, not just killing a human being but cutting them up into pieces and carrying them around,” Pesci said.

A preliminary hearing in Holland’s case was scheduled for Jan. 27.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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