Mike & April Holton, Madison Holton’s Parents: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

april holton

Facebook Mike Holton and April Holton, the parents of Jesse Madison Holton.

Who killed Mike Holton and his estranged wife, April Holton? There are three key theories in the case, the local District Attorney in Alabama has said:

Either Mike Holton took a gun and killed his wife, before turning it on himself, or their teenage son, Jesse Madison Holton killed both parents. The third theory, equally grisly and disturbing: That Mike Holton killed his wife, prompting his son to kill him.

An April 19, 2019 episode of NBC’s Dateline show explores the Alabama deaths, which occurred in September 2016. Jesse Madison Holton, one of the couple’s three sons, was charged with their deaths, but the charges were later dismissed, and the DA now admits that prosecutors can’t sort out the truth beyond a reasonable doubt.

Mike Holton was a former mayor and fire chief; his wife was a “team mom” and full-time mother. Mike and April’s marriage had ruptured, and they were not living in the same home at the time of their deaths, according to the Elmore & Autauga News. There was an active divorce filing. A friend told Dateline that April had left the marriage because Mike’s treatment of her changed, and he was not happy about the split.

According to Dateline, Mike Holton had a drug problem and narcotics in his system on that night. In addition, Mike’s diaries also indicated a man who felt like he couldn’t go on without his marriage.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Mike Holton Called the Sheriff’s Department Because He Was Angry That His Son Held a Party

One thing that led authorities to initially suspect Madison Holton – falsely, his attorney and Madison say – is because there was rancor between father and son only 11 minutes before the parents ended up dead.

Holton, then 17, was charged as an adult with the slayings of his mother and father, but the charges were later dismissed. The teen is often simply called Madison Holton (his dad’s first name was technically Jesse too).

The charges were dropped in fall 2018 after Jesse Madison Holton spent more than a year in jail.

“I have no doubt in my mind that the sheriff will try to put me back in jail,” Madison Holton told Dateline. “I don’t know why he has such a grudge against me.” Told the sheriff thinks he committed murder, Holton said, “He will think wrong for the rest of his life.”

According to Dateline, the couple seemed “on the same page about their teenage son.” However, Madison Holton was going through “teenage rebellion,” and his parents were separating. The parents told him if he messed up again, he would go to jail.

According to Dateline, Madison threw a house party while his dad was at work. Michael Holton called the sheriff’s office, and a deputy came over to the home at the dad’s request. The deputy reported that April was in the living room, and Madison was “sullen on the couch.” Michael asked the deputy “how as parents they could get the juvenile courts involved,” according to Dateline. He told the deputy he found drug paraphernalia associated with the party, the Wetumpka Herald reported.

WSFA-TV reports that Mike Holton had handcuffed his son. The dad was upset the house “was trashed,” the sheriff told Elmore & Autauga News.

There were “remnants of a teenage party.” Eleven minutes later, after the deputy left, there was a 911 call. A neighbor reported the parents had been shot in the head, WSFA-TV reported.

A sheriff’s investigator says that Madison Holton left his residence and told his neighbor that his parents were involved in a physical altercation. He claimed his parents went into the bedroom and got involved in a physical fight. According to Emlore & Autauga News, “Jesse ran to a neighbor’s home, still handcuffed reportedly, and said he needed help…Jesse told the neighbor his father had a gun and his parents were in the house.”

Mike Holton was dead when deputies arrived. April was still alive, but she wouldn’t live for long.

2. The Trajectory of Mike Holton’s Head Wound Made Sheriff’s Investigators Suspicious

What made authorities suspect Madison Holton? The trajectory of Mike Holton’s head wound made initial investigators think suicide was not plausible, according to Dateline and multiple news reports on the case.

Michael Holton was killed by a close contact wound at the base of his head. Investigators said they would have to place the gun upside down and angle it with a left hand to replicate the trajectory of that wound. But Michael Holton was right handed. How could he accomplish such a thing, and why wouldn’t he just hold the gun a different way if he was committing suicide?

The sheriff and his investigators thought suicide was improbable and the pathologist classified the death a homicide, Dateline says.

Investigators said Madison Holton told them he kicked down his parents’ bedroom door when his mom called for help, but authorities didn’t find evidence of a broken door, according to WSFA-TV.

The station reported that the bullet “entered the back left side of his (Mike Holton’s) head and exited through the front right.” According to The Montgomery Advertiser, testimony described the parents’ wounds this way:

“Mike Holton was shot in back of the head, on the left side…with the bullet exiting the front of his head. Mike Holton was right-handed and shot right-handed, so it’s not ‘probable’ that he shot himself in the back of the head on the left side.”

April Holton “received a gunshot wound to one of her fingers on her right hand, consistent with a ‘defensive wound’…April Holton’s right hand was covering the top right portion of her head, where the bullet entered…The medical examiner who performed both autopsies characterized the injuries at ‘close contact wounds.'”

3. The District Attorney Now Says They Can’t ‘Find the Truth’ So the Charges Were Tossed

The case against Holton eventually unraveled because even the prosecution began to have serious doubts about the case.

District Attorney Randall Houston said in a 2018 news conference, “I’ve never been confronted with a situation like this where my prosecutor did not believe it was ethical to go ahead with the charges. He was concerned that if Jesse was found guilty, it could not be undone.”

He said in a press release, “As prosecutors, our job is to find the truth and do justice. When we can’t find the truth, it is impossible to do justice.” He revealed in the release that there were three theories in the case, but not enough evidence to support a finding of reasonable doubt in either one: “From the beginning, this case has been open to interpretation to what is actually the truth. Either Jesse (Madison) Holton killed his father and mother; the father of Jesse (Madison) Holton killed (his) mother then Jesse killed his father; the father of Jesse (Madison) Holton killed Jesse’s mother and then killed himself.”

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The DA added in the news conference: “If evidence ever develops otherwise, to convince us beyond a reasonable doubt that we could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, then the murder charges could be reinstated.”

“It’s been a difficult case from the beginning,” he said. “…However, originally the Sheriff’s Department was informed… that this was a homicide. I think that’s 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.”

Normally, you’d have blood splatter, DNA, possibly fingerprints, he said. “That did not occur in that case. We did have fingerprints, but they were not Jesse Holton’s fingerprints,” said Houston. “There was blood splatter, but none of it was on Jesse. There was no blood splatter at all on him. We had Jesse engaging in unusual behavior. I don’t know if he’s just a weird kid, I don’t know what it was, but he did some unusual things that led investigators to question what he was saying.”

In the end, though, the DA says the evidence they received “was more consistent with Jesse’s story than with murder.”

The first grand jury in the case only indicted Holton in the murder of his father, but a second grand jury had indicted him in both deaths.

Jesse Madison Holton’s attorney told the Wetumpka Herald newspaper that he believes Mike Holton killed his wife and then himself in a murder suicide. He argued that Mike Holton shot himself in the back of the head and was ambidexterous, allowing him to do so. He also argued, according to the Wetumpka Herald, that “April Holton had several injuries where she had been beaten and Michael Holton’s skin was recovered from under her fingernails. Michael Holton was also found with defensive wounds.”

4. April Holton Was Involved in the Church & Was a ‘Full-Time Mom’

Jesse Madison Holton and April Holton

April Holton was focused on family and church.

April Diane Owenby Holton, 37, of Eclectic, was born December 24, 1978, according to her obituary. The obituary says she was survived by three children: Madison Holton, Hayden Holton and Kyle Holton.

“April was a member of First Baptist Church of Eclectic since her childhood, where she was active in the Youth Mission and won Bible drills, the obit says.

“She was a graduate of 1997 Class of Elmore County High School, where she played in the band; she was saxophone section leader and also assistant drum major. She was a full-time mom and could often be seen in the dugout section as a team mom.”

A friend wrote on her funeral remembrance page, “April was a beautiful person & I am blessed to have spent the short time with her that I did.” Another wrote, referring to April Holton’s maiden name, “To the Owenby family I am so sorry for your loss of a wonderful soul and a wonderful person who always had a smile on her beautiful face. April, you’ll be missed dearly, pretty girl. May your soul R.I.P baby girl.”

April’s brother Michael Evans, a police officer elsewhere, told WSFA-TV that he believes Madison is innocent.

“The first thing we were told when my brother arrived on the scene was Michael shot my sister and then killed himself,” said Evans. “…Apparently there’s no blood or DNA on him (Madison Holton) at all or on any of his clothing. They didn’t find any of his DNA in the bedroom. I know the gun as covered in blood, so if the gun was covered in blood there had to be blood on him. At the prelim, if I recall, the deputy that spoke that day said there’s no evidence that he tried to clean up, no evidence he changed his clothes.”

5. Mike Holton Was a Former Mayor & Fire Chief Who Traveled to New York After the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

Twitter/mugshotJesse Madison Holton

The father’s full name was Jesse Michael Holton, and he was born on June 3, 1979. He was heavily involved in public service in the small town in Alabama where the family lived.

He was a graduate of 1997 Class of Elmore County High School, according to his obituary, and a member of First Baptist Church of Eclectic.

Mike Holton had a long legacy of public service. “He served in the National Guard, Montgomery Fire Department, Alexander City Fire Department and Millbrook Fire Department and on the Air Evac Lifeteam,” says his obit.

“He served as Chief of the Eclectic Fire Department and was a certified fire instructor. He gladly traveled to New York after 9-11 and helped many families. He served as Mayor of Eclectic from 2012-2014. His life was devoted to serving people and his community. He was a Little League Coach for football and baseball, a loving father and husband and a dear friend to all who knew him.”

One local family wrote on his funeral remembrance page, “Mike was loved by all who met him. He will truly be missed!”