AUSTIN (KXAN) - Less than two weeks after the body of Sylvia Reyes Holt was found strangled in her South Austin home, her estranged husband confessed to killing her.
It was a confession that would lead police to pursue first-degree murder charges against Jonathan Holt. And a confession that Holt would repeat no fewer than six times over the next year and a half.
But Holt, who was to be divorced from his wife at the time of her death, has never gone to trial. The charge was dropped in June 2012, leaving Sylvia Holt's family still waiting for justice -- but prosecutors suggesting that the book is not yet closed Jonathan Holt.
Sylvia Reyes Holt, a 36-year-old mother of one who suffered from diabetes, died Dec. 22, 2010. She was described as being devoted to her daughter and her four siblings and who was looking forward to getting out of failed marriage and on with her life.
When the family had not heard from her in the days before Christmas, they contacted EMS to check on her. The EMS crew found her body.
"We were very close and we spent a lot of time together," said her sister, Alicia Pond. "We miss those times. Things are not the same. It's just hard. Hard not having her around."
A family mourns a loss
Syliva Holt was one of four tight-knit siblings, and the only one not living in San Antonio.
"She always wanted to be with the family," Pond said. "It was hard because she lived in Austin and we were all here."
Jonathon Holt, four years older than his wife, initially told police that he had been out Christmas shopping the night his wife was killed. But on Jan. 4, 2011, he told detectives he had researched on the computer how to kill a diabetic, and then injected Sylvia with an overdose of insulin before strangling her with a rope.
But the first problem with the case came about when Jonathan's account of the murder did not match the crime scene evidence.
"The confessions were demonstrably false," said Charlie Baird, Holt's defense attorney. "In other words, how Jonathan Holt said he committed the crime of murder of Sylvia Reyes was factually impossible."
Baird described his client's behavior as being "compliant." As hard as it might be to believe, Baird said, when Holt confessed, he simply wanted to please the police.
"There are those like Jonathan Holt who are more compliant, that are more apt to do something to please the other -- in this case, a police detective -- even though it is against their own self-interest," Baird said.
"It is difficult to understand and that's why we would have had a psychologist come in and explain that phenomenon to the jury."
The case unravels
By October 2011, Holt's case had still not come to trial and he was released on bond. His defense was pushing for a speedy trial and for DNA testing.
The first round of testing did not exclude Holt from being at the crime scene. But a second round of more sophisticated DNA testing revealed two different samples of unknown male DNA on Sylvia's underwear. The DNA did not match Jonathan Holt, and in June 2013, prosecutors dropped the murder charge against him, pending further investigation.
The dismissal of the charge was devastating for Sylvia's family, who has been waiting more than two and a half years for justice.
"We just want it over, we want my sister's killer found," said Alicia. "We want whoever did it, be it Jonathan, be it someone with Jonathan, be it someone who wasn't Jonathan. We just want to be able to put his behind us and know that she can rest in peace."
Austin police homicide detectives said they stand by the arrest of Holt. And Jim Young, the prosecutor handling the case for the Travis County District Attorney's Office, said the DNA may cast doubt on Holt's culpability. But he would not rule out filing the murder charge against him once more.
Baird said he's confident that will not happen.
"I think that Jonathan Holt has been exonerated," Baird said. "And it is my hope that they will continue with the investigation and remove the focus from Mr. Holt because he's pretty well exonerated and focus on the individuals that may have had some type of motive and just really go back from scratch and find out who killed Ms. Reyes.
"I think they rushed to judgment and certainly I can understand why, but they rushed to judgment against Jonathan Holt when they should have waited for the DNA testing to be done and completed."
Still waiting for closure
The case will now go to the cold case unit. But Sylvia's family is not hopeful that the case will be solved.
"The DNA I don't think is going to be much of a factor in finding her ultimate killer," said Pond.
In fact, the DNA samples found on Sylvia Holt's underwear were so small, investigators only have partial profiles, which makes it impossible to match them completely to a single person.
The circumstances weigh heavily on the Reyes family, who recently gathered to place flowers on Sylvia's San Antonio grave, as they often do.
"It feels like we're complete when we come and see her," Pond said while visiting her sister's grave. "Other than that, there's always something missing when we're anywhere else."
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