Kathleen Horan, 46, was found dead inside her second-floor apartment at 900 Chestnut St. early the morning of Oct. 30, after police responded to a request for a well-being check from someone who knew her.
Investigators suspect she was murdered at about 7 p.m. the previous night. The cause of her death has not yet been released.
Horan’s murderer had posed as a utility worker checking on a gas leak in the neighborhood, police said at a news conference Friday morning.
The suspect, Gary Scott Holland, 43, was detained Friday at about the same time the news conference was under way after officers in the Richmond District spotted him lying on the ground in some bushes at Sutro Heights Park overlooking the ocean.
At another news conference this morning at the Hall of Justice, District Attorney Kamala Harris announced that Holland, who had been on parole for attempted murder in Fresno County, has been charged with one count of murder, one count of attempted rape, one count of residential robbery and two counts of residential burglary.
He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday morning.
Harris said Holland came to Horan’s door dressed as a utility worker and “essentially duped her into opening the door, upon which he committed these heinous acts.”
“I’m very happy that this predator’s off the street,” police Assistant Chief Jeff Godown said at today’s news conference.
Though police and prosecutors have not specified what evidence links Holland to the crimes, or what his alleged motive was, Harris said today that DNA evidence would “play a very strong role” in obtaining a conviction.
Police have said that Holland may have suffered an injury to his left hand during the encounter, and that items belonging to Horan were found outside her apartment.
Richmond Station Capt. Richard Corriea and two other officers, Officer Francis Feliciano and Lt. Mark Mahoney, saw Holland on the ground at Sutro Heights Park, located near 48th and Point Lobos avenues, at about 10 a.m. Friday and went to check on him, Corriea said today by phone.
“We just happened to be out in the area and noticed him,” Corriea said.
“In fairly short order, questions began to arise about who he was and what he was doing there,” Corriea said. “When he came back as a parolee for a violent felony, the level of focus increased.”
Homicide inspectors later booked Holland for murder.
Corriea called the fortuitous arrest a combination of “quick intuition and just being at the right place at the right time.”
Both Harris and Godown took the opportunity at today’s news conference to remind residents that they should always attempt to verify the identity of workers asking for access to the home.
Harris implied Holland might have been trying to take advantage of Bay Area residents’ worries about the fragility of gas pipelines following the recent PG&E disaster in San Bruno.
She said Holland “was a true predator, and put himself out in a position of trust so that (Horan) opened that door.”
“Any one of us would have done what she did that day,” Harris said.
Reached by phone early this afternoon, Horan’s uncle John Horan said the family is gratified by the arrest.
“We’re just very pleased with the San Francisco homicide detectives,” Horan said.
“They kept us in the loop all the way around when this whole situation started,” he said. “They told us unequivocally that they would catch this person, and then they followed up when things were going along, and they got him.”
According to Horan, his niece had just returned that Friday from a trip to Argentina with her mother, and had been expecting a visitor that night when the suspect came to her door.
“She made a critical error, but it was also about thinking for her safety,” in terms of a possible gas leak, Horan said.
While the Horan family is still grieving, “At least (the arrest) might help other people by getting him off the street, and he can’t do it again,” Horan said.
“As a family, we’re relieved,” he said.
Ari Burack, Bay City News