MONTEREY COUNTY – On March 24, 2020, the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office announced that Charles Allen Holifield, 59, was found guilty of the 1998 kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of 13-year-old Christina Williams. Holifield was convicted following a 10-day court trial and was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“This killer was a suspect early into the investigation of Christina Williams murder,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “But it wasn’t until years later, when California Department of Justice criminalists processed DNA evidence that Holifield could be charged with this unspeakable crime.”
On the evening of June 12, 1998, Christina Williams left her family home in the military housing complex in Seaside to walk her dog. Her dog was found wandering in the neighborhood with his leash attached, but Christina never returned home. Seven months later, her skeletal remains were discovered under branches in a remote area of Fort Ord. While the medical examiner was unable to determine her cause of death, the circumstances of her disappearance and death indicated that she had been murdered.
Holifield became a suspect early in the investigation because he was a convicted sex offender who had been found trespassing twice on restricted areas of Fort Ord in 1997. Holifield was repeatedly interviewed by the FBI and denied having any involvement in the murder. However, he said he did not have an alibi for the night Christina disappeared and did not know where he was. He told multiple witnesses he was very familiar with Fort Ord. A prior girlfriend testified that the Holifield was very familiar with the location where Christina’s body was found, and that he had once threatened to kill her while driving on one of the roads that led to the recovery site. The mother of one of Holifield’s girlfriends provided him with an alibi for the night of the murder when she was contacted by the FBI in July 1998. Holifield’s girlfriend later adopted that alibi and testified at trial that he was with her the evening of the kidnapping. However, in 2011, the girlfriend recanted her alibi and claimed she only provided it because she was fearful of Holifield due to prior violence and threats. Numerous witnesses who testified at trial contradicted the alibi and the girlfriend’s other statements.
In April 2017, Holifield was formally charged with Christina’s murder after her underwear was re-tested for DNA evidence by the California Department of Justice Crime Laboratory and sperm cells were located. The DNA profile developed from the sperm cells matched Holifield exactly. Holifield’s two prior sexual assault convictions involved him attacking, strangling and raping teenage girls walking alone in Monterey County in 1979 and 1983. Both victims courageously took the stand against Holifield and testified to their assaults at trial.
Holifield, who had been facing the death penalty, agreed to waive his right to a trial by jury in exchange for a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole. The District Attorney’s Office entered into this agreement after consulting with the Williams family, who expressed their desire for closure and finality of the judgment in their daughter’s case. The decision was also partly based on an executive order issued in March 2019 by Governor Gavin Newsom, which created an effective moratorium on the death penalty in California. Holifield also waived his right to writs and appeals if he was convicted at the court trial.
Judge Butler found Holifield guilty of the first-degree murder of Christina, and also found true two special-circumstance allegations that the murder was committed during the commission of kidnapping and the commission of a lewd and lascivious act on a child under the age of 14. She also convicted Holifield of kidnapping Christina with the intent to commit rape, and she found true allegations that he was a habitual sexual offender who had suffered four prior “strike” offenses within the meaning of the Three Strikes Law.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of innumerable state, federal and local investigative agencies.
In 2017, the Peninsula Cold Case Project, the Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services Crime Laboratory in Freedom, and the Jan Bashinski DNA Laboratory in Richmond provided valuable investigative support that led to the resolution of the case.
Successful prosecution would not have been possible without Chief Ryan McGuirk, Investigators Tracey Spencer, Ben Draeger, Alicia Cox and Natalie Dill of the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation, and District Attorney Victim Assistance Program Manager Pamela Patterson.