Nashville, N.C. — Nash County District Attorney Howard Boney said Tuesday he plans to seek the death penalty against a man who police say confessed to stabbing two women, killing one, inside a Rocky Mount church last week.
Security was heightened at the Nash County Courthouse and the courtroom closed to the public as Tommy Lee Holiday, 30, made his first appearance on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Debbie Kornegay, 58, and an attempted murder charge in the stabbing of Eve Beasley, 60.
Holiday's hearing was held in a Superior Court room instead of the District Court room normally used for first court appearances. Only a handful of people, including attorneys and members of Kornegay's family were allowed inside.
Escorted by several deputies, Holiday briefly glanced at Kornegay's family before facing the judge. He answered "Yes," when asked if he understood the charges against him and also requested a court-appointed attorney to represent him.
Boney also asked that Holiday's attorneys be appointed from outside the district but did not say why. Kornegay's husband, Robert Kornegay, however, is an attorney in Nash County.
Kornegay's family declined to comment on Boney's decision, but a family spokesman, who asked that he not be identified, released a statement, the first from the family:
"Our family is deeply indebted to all first responders, especially to area law enforcement officers, with a special thanks to the Rocky Mount Police Department for their great work. The family remains overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from friends and the entire community."
Beasley's son, Billy Beasley, said his family was appreciative of the district attorney's decision, saying it was "the right decision."
"We're totally behind it, and we're all in favor of it," he said.
Kornegay, the director of Meals on Wheels, and Beasley, the assistant director, were preparing meals in the kitchen at Lakeside Baptist Church on Oct. 18 when, police said, Holiday attacked them.
Investigators said they believe Kornegay was trying to help Holiday find a shelter before he stabbed her multiple times. Beasley was taken to Pitt Memorial Hospital, where she was listed in critical condition Tuesday morning.
Billy Beasley said his mother underwent surgery again last night and is showing signs of improvement. Doctors are hoping for significant improvement in her condition within the next 10 days.
"I hope that my mom's condition improving will give everyone some hope," he said.
Court records show Holiday has been incarcerated five times since 1993, three of those prison terms resulting from revoked probation. He was released from Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City in August after serving an 11-month sentence for breaking and entering.
He has also been convicted on multiple counts of larceny, larceny of a firearm, drug possession, resisting an officer, common law robber, possessing stolen goods and carrying concealed weapons.
For security reasons, Holiday is being held in Raleigh's Central Prison without bond. A probable cause hearing is set for Nov. 6.