CREVE COUR, Mo. (KMOV.com) - Was it a suicide or something more? 35-year-old Grace Holland died last year in Creve Coeur with a single gunshot wound to her head.

But whether she took her own life all depends on who you ask. Her family claims there's been a coverup, but the police say that's simply not so.

“It’s hard to live in a world without her,” said Laura Holland, Grace Holland's identical twin sister. “It’s hard; it’s hard to see her in her little girls." 

But, she told News 4 what has made it all harder is what has happened since.

“I felt like she's not being treated as a victim; our family wasn't being heard at all,” said Laura. She believes police have not done enough because of what they were initially told and who told them.

“I think he's being protected because of who he is,” Laura said.

The last person to see Grace alive was her fiancé, a fire captain in a department neighboring Creve Coeur. He declined to comment for this story. Grace's father, Graham Holland, has since made it his mission to question the police investigation, piecing together what happened before and after Grace's death.

“Is it bad leadership, bad training, or complacency?” Graham said. “There are all these idiosyncrasies. Singularly, they don’t mean a lot, but when you put them together, it does mean a lot." 

It's no secret that Grace's four-year-relationship with her fiancé was very rocky. News 4 is not naming him, since he's not considered a person of interest or a suspect. We are going to call him John Doe and John afterwards.

A video, reportedly taken by Grace weeks before her death, appears to show John wanted out of their relationship, and dozens of pages of text messages, provided to the police by John's lawyer, also indicate significant trouble in the relationship. Grace was often pleading to get married and John wanted to be done all together.

In the months leading up to her death, according to the texts between them, Grace had been pregnant.

One exchange reads: “Please stop saying I should kill myself” to which John replies: “You asked me and I do not want to marry you and I do not want this baby.”

At times, he encouraged her to seek an abortion. Instead, it appears from their texts Grace may have had a miscarriage.

John told police at the scene, "She was depressed, we lost a baby, it's the second miscarriage and she was very depressed, and you know, I didn't want to try another round."

He told them she shot herself in the head right in front of him.

News 4 sat down with Creve Coeur Police Chief Jeffrey Hartman.

“For us to call this a murder, we have to have some evidence it was a murder and it’s just not there,” said Chief Hartman.

He's confident in the investigation that was done, which concluded it was suicide. The Medical Examiner also ruled the same. The coroner’s forensic analysis was that the gun was placed directly to Grace’s head.

“What we have and what we know for certain, all points in one direction, self-inflicted,” Chief Hartman said.

Grace’s family acknowledges she had struggled with postpartum depression in the past. Just two months before her death, police said a witness found her crying and holding a handgun.

“A person’s mental health history and their past attempts at suicide and the methods they try, are all going to be factors that factor in,” Chief Hartman said.

But, Grace's family told News 4 things don't add up. “There are all these little things that the police didn’t do,” Graham said.

In May, John was interviewed on video by the police, over a separate investigation involving claims of missing jewelry. But, while he was formally questioned after Grace's death, the Chief acknowledges the video was inadvertently erased, due to an error with the department’s recording system.

John's phone was never seized, police said, because he wasn't a suspect. Though they were reportedly together all night and, according to John, had been intimate. Grace's phone records, which were obtained by Graham, not the police, show she called him repeatedly, back-to-back, within an hour or so of her death.

Grace’s family notes that police did not perform any DNA tests on Grace’s gun. Chief Hartman said that wouldn't have been helpful, because John was also known to have access to it.

The police also didn't do gunshot residue testing on either Grace's or John's hands. Chief Hartman told News 4 those types of tests aren't reliable.

“The presence of gunshot residue does not prove that you pulled the trigger and that's the problem,” Chief Hartman said.

“The Chief is wrong, the GSR is a pertinent piece of information, said Timothy T. Williams, Jr. He was with the Los Angeles Police Department for nearly 30 years, serving many years a homicide detective. News 4 provided him the police and coroner's reports, even the 9-1-1 call to review. He questions John's calmness on the call and the couple's past.

“My initial analysis, based on the crime scene, is it does not appear to be a suicide,” said Williams. "There are too many questions that I have as an investigator that have not been answered and until that is done, then, in my opinion, it cannot be categorized as a suicide," Williams said.

Grace, who was right-handed, was shot on her left side. The police report states the gun was found near her right hand, but on the left side of her body.

“You’ve got more questions that you got answers,” Williams said.

Here’s perhaps one of the biggest questions of all: no suicide note was found at the scene, instead, John told police he found two suicide notes, in his briefcase, the day after Grace's death. However, Grace's family told News 4 they look nothing like her handwriting.

News 4 gave numerous samples of Grace's handwriting, provided by her family to handwriting expert Marcel Elfers. His analysis: it is likely someone else wrote the suicide notes. Only signatures from the note and from Grace's previous divorce paperwork, he said, have similarities. He said more information is needed to get a definitive answer.

“There is enough evidence to say we need to investigate this,” said Elfers.

Hartman explained the case is still open for two reasons: they are consulting their own handwriting expert now and they are awaiting results from the FBI on Grace’s phone.

“Given the family's concerns, would you allow another agency to come in and do a top to bottom investigation?” asked investigative Reporter Lauren Trager.

“I am not opposed to it. I need to have some compelling evidence that there were some major failures in this and I just don't see that,” the Chief said. “There are some clerical errors in this report for sure, but that doesn't amount to a failure in the investigation."

He denies any allegation that his officers would engage in a cover-up or even be too “close” to a fire captain. “I know our investigators, they're going to do the right thing,” said Chief Hartman.

But Grace’s family told News 4 they are still not satisfied and will continue to fight for answers. “Somebody has to, maybe there is someone else’s daughter out there I can save,” said Graham.

Given the family's concerns, in February, police provided the case file to investigators at the prosecutor’s office who arrived at the same conclusion: suicide.

After News 4 called them recently, the prosecutor’s office met with the family in the last few days. A spokesperson told News 4 there is no statute of limitations on homicide, so if anyone has additional information about Grace’s death, they should come forward.

News 4 reached out to the attorney representing the fiancé. He told us they had no comment.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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