Fayetteville man pleads guilty to killing Kelli Bordeaux
A Fayetteville man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for the 2012 beating death of Fort Bragg soldier Kelli Bordeaux.Posted — Updated
Nicholas Michael Holbert, 28, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping. The plea helped him avoid a possible death sentence in the case.
A combat medic with Fort Bragg's 601st Area Support Medical Company 44th Medical Brigade, Bordeaux was last seen leaving the now-closed Froggy Bottoms bar on Ramsey Street on April 14, 2012.
On May 14, 2014, her remains were found in a deeply wooded area off River Road near the Interstate 295 corridor – about 4 miles from the bar. An autopsy determined she died of blows to the head.
"I realize there isn't anything I could say or do that would ease the pain and suffering that you have endured because of my actions," Holbert said to Bordeaux's mother, brother and sister, who attended his plea hearing. "But I feel compelled by not only myself but by God to attempt to apologize to you and your family."
Bordeaux's family agreed to the plea deal to avoid having to endure a trial, but they didn't accept Holbert's apology.
"You, Mr. Holbert, I hate. You took something so precious from me. You took potential grandchildren from me. You took my baby girl," Johnna Hanson said. "My heart is not big enough. I think I’m a good person, a forgiving person, but not when you brutally, violently, senselessly, you know. It’s not an accident. It wasn’t like, 'Oh, sorry.' No, I can’t forgive something like that. I’m sorry."
At one point during the hearing, Superior Court Judge James Ammons ordered Bordeaux's brother, Matt Hanson, to leave the courtroom because he looked like he was about to attack Holbert.
“Being 10 feet away from him and trying to stay calm and not go over there and assault him (was difficult), so I was actually kind of glad that the judge just kicked me out,” Matt Hanson said later.
Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West said in court that Bordeaux was estranged from her husband in April 2012 and was dating someone from her native Florida when they met Holbert at Froggy Bottoms. After her boyfriend returned to Florida, she and Holbert went to the bar for an evening of pool, karaoke and drinking.
Sometime during the evening, Bordeaux became aware the Holbert is a registered sex offender, West said. When they left the bar together in the early hours of April 14, 2012, Holbert asked if they could spend more time together, and Bordeaux rebuffed his advances with a "derogatory comment about him being a sex offender," West said.
Holbert then punched her, knocking her out, dragged her to his car and drove her to a makeshift camp behind the bar where he lived, West said. When Bordeaux came to, she started screaming, and Holbert "beat her until she stopped screaming, stopped moving," the prosecutor said.
The following morning, Holbert drove into some woods near Eastover and buried Bordeaux.
After Bordeaux's disappearance, police repeatedly questioned Holbert because he was the last person seen with her, but he insisted he dropped her off at her apartment complex that night and didn't know what happened after that.
West said Holbert was incarcerated for part of 2012 and 2013 for violations of his obligations as a registered sex offender. Some other inmates said he made incriminating statements about Bordeaux's disappearance, West said, but police still didn't have enough evidence to charge him.
In late 2013, David Marshburn, a private investigator from Smithfield who was looking into the Bordeaux case on his own, befriended Holbert, and several months later, Holbert led Marshburn to Bordeaux's shallow grave.
"This is a tragic situation," defense attorney W. David Smith Jr. said in court Friday.
Holbert was drunk and simply "snapped" when Bordeaux commented about him being a sex offender, Smith said.
"His character was put aside. His good sense was put aside," he said.
During the numerous searches for Bordeaux after her disappearance, Holbert often thought of coming forward and confessing, Smith said, only to "lose the courage to do so because he realized what he was going to have to face."