Ryan Holle was a straight A student living with his sister and a roommate in Pensacola, Florida.
Until, one night, he threw a college party that wound up changing everything and turning his world upside down. What was supposed to be a night of harmless partying, turned into a nightmare when Ryan was accused of killing his roommate’s girlfriend Jessica. But, during the time of the murder, Ryan was one mile and a half away, so how could he have done it?
Who is Ryan Holle?
Ryan Holle was a good kid who was raised by his single mom, Sylvia. Ryan’s mom joined the U.S. Navy just to keep her children in a disciplined environment and they were raised on Navy bases around the world. For a family that never had any trouble with law enforcement, things were about to make a drastic change, and sooner than anyone expected.
In 2003, Sylvia married longtime love John Garnett, and Ryan happily gave his mother away. Ryan’s good friend Jessica Snyder was a guest at the wedding and the day was filled with happiness and merriment. However, barely four days later, something terrible happened to Jessica…
Who is Jessica Synder?
Jessica, 18, was dating Ryan’s roommate, Billy Allen, who lived in a home that Ryan shared with his sister Heather. “She was very, very sweet,” Heather said of Jessica. But, as far as Billy, Heather thought he was a bit sketchy. There were even rumors that Billy was not only dating Jessica but had a fling going on with her mother Christine as well.
The only thing Ryan’s sister Heather ever heard Billy say about Jessica’s mother was that he owed her money for some drugs, which was, you know, already a bad sign. Billy also knew details about what Jessica’s mother kept in her home, and he believed that there was $20,000 in cash in the family safe. Despite this information, Heather never thought Billy would ever do anything about it…
The Big Night
On the night of Ryan’s party, he got very drunk. He consumed somewhere between 6 and 10 rum of Cokes. He went to bed way before the party ended, but was awoken suddenly at around 7 am when Donnie Williams, someone who Ryan barely knew, burst into his room asking if he could borrow Ryan’s car…
Ryan refused to give Donnie his car keys, but when Ryan’s roommate Billy came in with the same request, Ryan agreed. “I told him yes, because I had trust in him,” Ryan said. While Ryan and Billy were discussing the keys, Donnie and two other men Ryan hardly knew entered the room. Ryan was still groggy and drunk, but he overheard some of the conversation between the boys. They had spoken about going over to Billy’s on-and-off girlfriend’s house, Jessica Snyder, to steal the safe…
Dazed And Confused
The men also talked about going to get something to eat, after which they asked him if they could borrow some bandanas. Ryan, in his addled state, told them where they could find the bandanas. They discussed who might be at Jessica’s home during the robbery and what they would do if Jessica was there. One of the ideas was that they may have to “knock her out…they may have to put her to sleep.” Yet, Ryan, half asleep, didn’t believe any of of what they were actually saying to be anything more than a joke.
Ryan “didn’t take it serious at all,” and he laid in bed trying to shake off a hangover and get some sleep. At the same time, Billy was behind the wheel of Ryan’s car on his way to Jessica’s house, one mile and a half away, to steal her mother’s safe containing money and jewelry. When Billy and the three other accomplices- Donnie Williams, Jermond Thomas, and Charles Miller arrived at the house, they ran into a big problem: Jessica’s younger sister was home. While they were waiting for her sister to leave to go to school, Billy’s cellphone rang: it was Ryan…
Ryan called to ask Billy where his car is and what they are doing. When Billy said they were at Jessica’s house waiting for her younger sister to leave for school, Ryan still didn’t believe him. “I remember that he said he had to go, and he ended up hanging up the phone. Ryan fell back asleep. Meanwhile, back at Jessica’s house, her little sister finally left for school and the robbery was back in motion.
Scared For Her Life
Billy waited in the car while the other three burst into Jessica’s home, but they hit yet another snag once they realized Jessica was still there as well. Jessica, now screaming because three men had broken into her house, watched helplessly as the men scrambled to find the safe. One of the men, Charles Miller, recalling the plan to “knock out” Jessica if she got in the way, made his way towards her…
Charles removed a shotgun that was on a wall in the house. He began hitting Jessica and then pounding on her face with the shotgun, trying desperately to quiet her. He was hitting her so hard with the gun that by the time he had finished, the butt of the rifle had broken off entirely. Meanwhile, the others were petrified as they watched Charles standing next to Jessica’s completely lifeless body: a bloody shotgun in his hand and a smile on his face.
Fleeing The Crime Scene
The burglars panicked and rushed to get the safe into Ryan’s car and once it was lifted into the backseat, they raced back to Ryan’s house. “I hear a loud bang… and when I get up to look to see what it is, my car is basically sitting in my backyard…I see them jumping out of the vehicle… and they took a safe out of the back seat and put it on the ground.” Ryan watched the guys use every tool they could to bust open the safe. He couldn’t believe they actually went through with the burglary…
Ryan could see the blood on Charles Miller’s clothes and he realized that things were even worse than he thought. Donnie, completely beside himself, began to cry, saying to Ryan: “One minute it’s like I could see her head there, and then the next minute I couldn’t.” Before Ryan could even absorb what he was hearing, the police had showed up at his door.
A neighbor who overheard what was going on called the cops, and when they walked in, they told everyone to freeze. Ryan was put in handcuffs, along with the others, and all five men were questioned. Although Ryan was confident he was not guilty, he cooperated with police. But, Ryan’s cooperation would come back to haunt him in the end…
Even though Ryan wasn’t involved in the heist or the murder, and wasn’t even at the crime scene, he was charged with the murder of Jessica Snyder, along with the four defendants. Ryan was arrested on an open count of murder.
This controversial law, called the Felony Murder Law, means that when people participate in certain serious crimes like robbery, burglary or rape, and a person is murdered during the crime, everyone is held responsible for the death. Police were treating Ryan like the “trigger-man” even though he didn’t pull the trigger…
The way police saw it, because Ryan lent his car to Billy, having overheard the plans for attempted burglary and assault, he is just as responsible. They believe, if Ryan had not allowed Billy to take the car, Jessica might still be alive. When Ryan was convicted he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Then, the prosecutor offered him a plea deal.
Since Ryan wasn’t even involved in planning the case and had not planned on receiving any of the money afterward, he was the only defendant offered a plea deal. Ryan, unfortunately, denied the deal of just 10 years in state prison for his role in the case. Ryan’s stepfather blames himself. “I told him not to take it,” John Garnett said.
Originally, Ryan’s family and indeed even his lawyers believed that the jury would find Ryan guilty of the lesser charges of second-degree murder or manslaughter, but that was not the case. Based on their verdict, jurors felt Ryan needed the harshest punishment. If there was no car, there was no crime. “No crime, no murder.” Ryan was sentenced to life in prison.
Flicker Of Hope
Ryan was eventually granted a hearing and while he ultimately did not gain his freedom, he did get a compromise. Ryan’s life sentence was commuted to 25 years imprisonment, followed by 10 years probation. “It’s a blessing in the sense that I know I’m not going to have to spend the rest of my life in prison,” he said. Ryan will finally taste freedom in 2024 when he is welcomed home by his family.