It was a case that shook the heart of a Canadian city, bringing a community together while simultaneously inciting into its residents. The death of a young girl at the hands of a heinous monster. The grief of the Jones family spread to the public, and citizens left wondering just how safe their children truly are. At any given time over 300 people were working on Holly’s case.
The disappearance of Holly Jones
On May 12, 2003, 10-year-old Holly Jones volunteered to walk her friend Claudia home after an after a school play date. Holly was normally a shy girl who was growing independence in her approaching adolescence and was eager to show her maturity. Claudia only lived a short distance from Holly, so they walked along Sterling Street – the same route Holly walked to school.
Upon seeing Claudia off, Holly walked back towards her house. When Holly left home at 6:00 PM, it was still daylight but as the darkness grew her parents Maria Jones and George Stonehouse began to worry. They promptly reported her missing and an “Amber alert” was issued the following morning. In addition to a plea from Holly’s parents for information about their daughter’s whereabouts and for her safe returns.
Early Life Of Holly Jones
Holly Maria Jones was born on September 14, 1992, in a loving home. Holly was the youngest of four siblings, her older siblings, Shone, Natasha, and James doted on her. Holly was a vivacious gentle and energetic little girl with a big imagination and even bigger dreams.
With a love of music, she wanted to become a famous singer one day. Holly thrived at school, she was well-liked a good student and an athlete, playing basketball and running cross-country, but above all, she had a special relationship with her mother.
Bags Found off the Shores of Toronto Island
A man walking his dog on Ward’s island stumbled across two bags on the shoreline each containing body parts. Police identified the remains as Holly Jones. Hours later, police released the statement: “The search for Holly Ones is now a search for her killer.”
Police divers continued to scour the waterfront for any evidence, police kept the investigation going by releasing the posters of two bags and dumbbells that were recovered from Lake. Even asking the public if anyone knew anything about Holly’s disappearance and murder.
Toronto police say their hotline has received more than 1,650 phone call tips and it was flooded with thousands of possible leads with little success.
Police appealed for help in identifying two men seen aboard the Toronto Island Ferry, around the time Holly’s remains were found. One of the men came forward and was cleared as a suspect, the other not identified.
On May 20th Holly was laid to rest at Saint Vincent DePaul Roman Catholic Church with hundreds of mourners with even police and politicians coming out to support the Jones family. Holly’s neighborhood was on high alert after her death, with more and more reported of attempted abduction, people lived in fear for their children’s lives and schools and forced stronger security measures.
On June 2, a man was seen leading a young boy out of Grocery store in Holly’s neighborhood. He ran off when the boy’s mother screamed at him.
Law enforcement continued to search for evidence going through the city’s garbage, beginning a controversial program for voluntary DNA collection from men within the area.
Search for the killer
Only a few men refused to take part in the program, one of them was a 35-year-old Software developer, named Michael Briere. Michael had no criminal record, and authorities obtained his DNA after he discarded a soda can in a public trash bin.
Michael’s DNA matched blood found under Holly’s fingernails, prompting police to arrest him while under interrogation Michael confessed to the murder of Holly Jones.
After viewing child pornography he happened to walk outside just as Holly passed in front of his home and he made a split-second decision that ultimately ended Holly’s life. He sexually abused and strangled her within an hour of taking her hostage, then hid her body in his refrigerator and dismembered her.
Over the course of three days, he disposed of her body by dumping the bags in the harbor then disposing of the rest in the garbage. Michael Briere was charged with first-degree murder and was held without bail in protective custody.
Holly’s family was relieved that her killer her been caught, In the ensuing months Michael waived his right to a preliminary hearing. He chose to plead guilty on June 17, 2014, to spare the Jones family from a painful trial, he was sentenced to life in prison and will not be eligible for parole until 2028.
Briere pleaded guilty to the crime, which he himself described as “cruel, inhuman, and nightmarish,” stating he wished to spare his victim’s family the pain of a trial.
Michael attributed his action to child pornography and stated that had Holly not been in the wrong place at the wrong time she would still be alive today.
Since the trial, two memorials have been created in Holly’s honor at two parks in the neighborhood where she lived. Holly’s mother has maintained her own garden in Holly’s memory at her home. Nothing will ever bring back her youngest daughter but she and her husband strive for change by proposing Holly’s law.
The proposal seeks to provide education and tools to children that help them identify and deal with sexual abuse. In hopes of ending it once and for all.