Investigation Discovery’s ‘American Monster’ utilizes one-on-one interviews and archival personal home videos to showcase how, sometimes, the most terrifying criminals hide in plain sight. They might look and act like any other ordinary person might, but it is just a façade that enables them to keep the rest of the world unaware of the fact that a psychopathic killer lurks within their skin. And its Season 4 episode, ‘Two Families,’ chronicling the brutal murder of husband and wife April and Mike Holton, examines the same concept. Now, if you’re here wondering about the details of their case, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s everything that we know.
How Did April and Mike Holton Die?
April Diane Owenby Holton, born December 24, 1978, and Jesse Michael Holton, born June 3, 1979, met when they were both seniors in high school. They fell in love hard and fast, and because their connection was one that was filled with trust and understanding, at least, at first, it didn’t come as a surprise to anyone when they decided to get married at the age of just 19. And soon, Michael became a firefighter, and the newlyweds started a family together, welcoming three children into their lives. However, by September 11, 2016, their relationship had turned sour, and they had separated their homes, being in the middle of an active divorce process.
That evening, Michael called 911 claiming that his son, Jesse Madison Holton, then 17, threw a party with drugs involved and trashed his Eclectic, Alabama, home while he was at work. A deputy with the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office came over to see what was wrong and noticed that Jesse had been handcuffed behind his back by his father as a form of punishment. April was also there because their son’s rebellious phase was the one thing the former couple could agree upon without a doubt. Together, the adults then made arrangements to take Jesse to the police station the following morning, with a juvenile warrant, before the deputy left the family alone.
But just eleven minutes later, the police received another 911 call, this time from Holton’s neighbor, who said that Jesse, still handcuffed, came over to their house., frantic, talking about his parents physically fighting and his father holding a gun against his mother. When the police arrived at the scene a few moments later, they found both April and Michael lying on the floor of a bedroom, with a gun in between them. Michael, with a gunshot wound to the back of his head, was pronounced dead at the scene, whereas April, who was breathing at the time, was taken to the hospital, but unfortunately, she passed away a day later as well, from severe head trauma.
According to reports, Mike was shot at point-blank range to the left side of the back of his head, and the bullet whizzed straight through him to exit from the front. And April, she “received a gunshot wound to one of her fingers on her right hand, consistent with a ‘defensive wound.'” But because her hand was covering the right portion of her head, it impacted it there as well. The medical examiner who conducted the Holton’s autopsy determined both their injuries to be from “close contact wounds.” Furthermore, although the pathologist classified their deaths as a homicide, they could not rule out the possibility of it being the result of a murder-suicide.
Who Killed April and Mike Holton?
The answer to this question is a bit more complicated than anyone would like. When the officers started investigating this case, the very first thing they looked into was the trajectory of the wounds suffered by the Holton’s. However, that just turned them away from the theory of murder-suicide. If Michael, a former Mayor, shot his soon to be ex-wife and then himself, he would have had to place the gun upside down and angle it with his left hand to make the second shot, which seems highly improbable. But as he was ambidextrous, it didn’t rule out the possibility in its entirety. Plus, there is also the fact that Mike was already angry at April as he didn’t want their marriage to end and that he had a drug problem, with narcotics already in his system that night.
The second thing that the investigators looked into, and quite possibly the most important, was their witness, the only other person at the scene, Jesse Madison Holton. He had told the investigators that after the deputy left, his parents began fighting, going into the bedroom and closing the door, where he subsequently heard physical attacks taking place. Jesse claimed that when he heard his mother call for help, he kicked down the door and saw his father holding the gun, after which he ran to his neighbors. But the authorities didn’t find any evidence of a broken door, or anything else, that would corroborate his story. And because Jesse’s behavior in the weeks that followed seemed strange, almost emotionless, the officers charged him with his parents’ murder.
Despite all this, in late 2018, the District Attorney’s office dropped all the charges against Jesse. “It’s been a difficult case from the beginning,” District Attorney Randall Houston said in a press conference. “Based on the unusual positioning of the bullet wound, the designation of homicide has not changed. However, in preparing the case for trial…the most they could say is it’s more likely than not that it’s a homicide.” He further continued to add that, “We did have fingerprints, but they were not Jesse Holton’s fingerprints. There was blood splatter, but none of it was on Jesse…the evidence received was more consistent with Jesse’s story than with murder.” And so, Jesse became a free man, and the case of his parents remains unsolved.
Read More: Where Is Jesse Madison Holton Now?