CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — A FOX31 Problem Solvers Investigation raises serious questions about the death of a Castle Rock teenager.
Holly Moore was found dead in her apartment in March. The Castle Rock Police and the Douglas County coroner ruled her death a suicide.
But a renowned medical examiner hired by the Moore family said there are strong indications that Holly was murdered.
Holly’s father, Ray Moore, turned to the Problem Solvers for help after the police and coroner declined to reopen their investigation despite being told a medical examiner, hired by the family, found new evidence.
The 19-year-old was found dead in her Castle Rock apartment on March 6, 2015.
Her roommate discovered her hanging in the bathroom closet. He said he cut her down then called 911. Ray Moore said he called his daughter’s cell phone.
“The roommate answered and said, ‘Mister you better come quick. She’s not breathing,’” Ray said. He raced to the scene and said he soon learned police had reached a conclusion.
“They said, ‘She was hung. She killed herself.'” Ray said. “We said, ‘She killed herself? It’s suicide? No, it’s not suicide. She would have never done that.’”
That being said, Ray admits his daughter’s life was not easy. Holly was a full-time care giver for her quadriplegic mother. In addition, her anti-depressant medication had run out and she had just broken up with her boyfriend Steven.
The family says they were helping Holly work through her problems, and the morning before she died her sister April said Holly was in good spirits and looking forward to a snowboarding trip they had planned for the weekend.
“She was really happy,” April said.
But the Douglas County Coroner’s report said text messages sent from Holly’s phone the night of her death indicate otherwise. That report said Holly was fighting with her ex-boyfriend Steven, who was accusing her of having a sexual relationship with her roommate.
Holly then reportedly responded to Steven, “You don’t deserve a goodbye” and texted him a picture of her thigh with his name, and several others written in red ink. It was the last message sent from Holly’s phone.
April said she immediately suspected her sister’s former boyfriend was somehow involved. She told police about a choking incident she witnessed the week before.
“I saw (Steven) lifting her up with just one hand and Holly was off the ground almost a foot,” April said. “Holly was turning red, she couldn’t breathe. She was saying, ‘stop, stop, stop!’”
A second witness also went to police and documented another incident where Holly’s ex “put her in a choke hold to get her to pass out.”
Castle Rock police confirm they also listened to an angry voicemail saved on Holly’s phone. That voicemail said, “Don’t you f—- hang up on me. You aint never seen me f—- mean Holly. Don’t ever tell me that I’m like my sister’s ex-husband. You don’t f— know him. I (would) love to kill him. I’d love to. No one would have to pay me to kill him. I’d do that s— for free.”
Castle Rock Sargent Tim Ratcliff said Holly’s former boyfriend is not a person of interest and there is no crime.
“The totality of the situation led us to believe that this was a suicide,” Ratcliff said.
So Holly’s family turned to Independent Forensic Services and hired nationally recognized forensic medical examiner Dr. Selma Eikelenboom to help investigate what the Castle Rock Police would not.
“We are in this for the truth finding,” Eikelenboom said.
In her search for the truth, Eikelenboom needed X-rays of Holly’s body. But Douglas County Coroner Jill Romann refused to use the county’s X-ray machine to do it.
“She could have taken it easily, but she just didn’t want to do it,” Eikelenboom said.
So instead, Eikelenboom took X-rays and examined the body at the funeral home.
“You could see she had injuries on her lip and under her chin,” Eikelenboom said. “It could be that she was kicked in the chin.”
Eikelenboom also saw deep horizontal marks on Holly’s neck, which she said are much more consistent with someone who has been strangled rather than the vertical marks of a hanging.
“The evidence points to a very quick wrapping of the chord and holding it very tight for a prolonged period of time,” Eikelenboom said.
Eikelenboom also noted Holly’s fingers were tightly wrapped under the wire.
“That doesn’t make sense,” she said. “It does make sense if she was strangled by somebody else and she is trying to fight if off.”
But it’s the X-rays that were most revealing for the forensic medical examiner. Eikelenboom said they showed Holly had a fractured right collarbone.
Eikelenboom also said the distorted collar bone is evident in a police photograph, showing the fracture occurred before she died.
“It’s extremely painful,” Eikelenboom said. “You are not able to do anything with your arm anymore, let alone wrap yourself twice, three times and hang yourself. It’s nonsense.”
The Problem Solvers wanted another expert opinion, so we asked former Arapahoe County Coroner and forensic pathologist Dr. Mike Dobersen to review the case.
“It’s an obvious fracture and it’s a relatively severe fracture, this is not the kind of injury that occurs from falling,” Dobersen said.
He said he could see signs of the fracture in the police photograph too.
“We really want a good explanation as to why that injury is there,” Dobersen continued. “And I think a police investigation is certainly warranted to fill in the gaps that appear to be in this case.”
Eikelenboom says there may be other gaps in the case, as well. Independent Forensic Services used a crime light at the scene and discovered body fluid on the floor, possible blood on the bed, a hand print on the wall and a wiped-off door knob leading to the bathroom where Holly’s body was found.
“The more we investigate, the more indications we get that this is indeed a homicide and not a suicide,” Eikelenboom said.
Eikelenboom believes DNA tests on the samples she collected from Holly’s bedroom and other items still being held in Castle Rock police custody could point to a killer.
Still, Ratcliff maintained “there is no evidence of criminal activity,” and said there is no reason to send evidence to the state crime lab.
Ratcliff deferred the rest of our questions to the Douglas County Coroner.
Coroner Jill Romann denied our repeated requests for an interview. We later learned Romann is not a doctor and did not actually perform the autopsy on Holly.
So FOX31 Investigative Reporter Heidi Hemmat tracked down forensic pathologist Dr. James Wilkerson, who did the autopsy.
Wilkerson would not talk to FOX 31 either. In an email, he claimed the medical experts who think Holly’s collar bone was fractured are wrong.
Wilkerson said the X-ray showed damage “from the autopsy shears” and in the police photo, an “indentation on the skin … probably from the clothing strap.”
“We have never seen a trained pathologist do this type of damage to a collar bone,” she said.
Eiklenboom said if Wilkerson somehow cut through a large bone with shears that are typically used to cut through the skin, it should have been noted in the autopsy report
“And I haven’t seen that in the autopsy report,” Eikelenboom said.
But what is noted in the report — “manner of death is suicide” — means the case is closed.
Still, there will be no closure for Ray and April Moore until they know what happened to Holly.
“We have not had a chance to grieve,” Ray said. “We’ve been doing the detective work of the police. I will never quit. I will get her justice.”
Ray has spent so much time and money on experts, in his search for justice, he cannot afford to pay for independent DNA testing that will cost tens of thousands of dollars per sample.
The Moore family is asking for donations through a memorial Facebook page: the Holly Lynn Moore Memorial Foundation.