The 21-year-old man arrested over the weekend in connection with the July 2013 death of Forest G. Dana — who investigators say died after having his head run over by a car in Absarokee — was released from jail Monday after posting on $250,000 bond.
On Saturday, investigators arrested the suspect, Michael Thomas Holtz, in Billings without incident and booked him into the Yellowstone County Detention Facility, according to the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office.
The arrest was made 11 months to the day after Dana’s body was found, and less than a week after investigators received a crime lab report saying his DNA had been found on Holtz’ car, a blue 2003 Mazda Protege, according to charging documents released by the Stillwater County Attorney’s Office.
Holtz, who witnesses said was drunk on the night of the death, faces charges of negligent homicide and tampering with or fabricating evidence, which respectively carry maximum sentences of 20 and 10 years in prison. He is scheduled to enter pleas to the charges in District Court on July 7.
The charges allege he ran over 27-year-old Dana in an alley in Absarokee late July 27 or early July 28, and later crashed his car into a tree on Lover’s Lane in an attempt to impede any investigation into the death.
Charging documents include a 28-page affidavit and a witness list of more than 200 people. Numerous witnesses quoted in the affidavit say they saw a car matching the description of Holtz’ car speeding down the alley where Dana’s body was found.
The death occurred during the annual Absarokee Days celebration, which drew hundreds of visitors to the town during the last weekend in July.
Several witnesses who said they saw Holtz the night of the death differentiated between him and his identical twin brother by their facial hair.
One witness said he had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit by Holtz’ car, which he estimated reached 80 mph as it sped down the alley where Dana was later found.
The alley runs between the 5 Spot Bar, where both Holtz and Dana were seen late July 27, and Dana’s parents’ nearby home, court records say.
Last Tuesday, investigators received a state crime lab report saying that DNA found on the passenger side front mudflap and A-frame of Holtz’ car matched Dana’s DNA profile.
Holtz said in an August interview with a state Division of Criminal Investigation agent that damage to the side of his Mazda was from a collision with a deer earlier in July, charging
documents state. He also denied driving his car down the alley on the night of July 27 or early on July 28.
He did, however, admit that on that night he had four or five whiskey drinks at the 5 Spot Bar and spoke to Dana, who was at the bar playing beer pong, court records say.
Other witnesses reported that Dana was last seen alive on a lawn near the bar, possibly between 11:30 p.m. and midnight.
Dana was found dead by family members at about 7:15 a.m. on July 28, 2013. An autopsy done the next day revealed he died from blunt force trauma. Court records say he “died as a result of having his head driven over by a motor vehicle.”
The autopsy report states that Dana had “aspirated blood” in his lungs, indicating he may have been given some assisted breaths before dying.
“The arrest comes after an intensive investigation conducted over the last 11 months,” according to a news release from the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office.
The state Division of Criminal Investigation assisted in investigating the case at the request of the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office. The attorney general’s office is also assisting in prosecuting the case, court records indicate.
There hadn’t been a murder in Absarokee since the 1990 shootings of 20-year-old Kirk William Aberle and 19-year-old Garrison T. Shupe.
John O. Miller IV was convicted of the murders and sentenced to life in prison.