Lawyer Argues Man Found With Severed Head in Truck a 'Hapless Car Thief' Who Picked Wrong

A request for bail was denied for a Las Vegas man facing a murder charge as his lawyer argued his client may have just been "a hapless car thief who just picked the wrong car," after police found a severed head and body parts in the car Eric Holland was driving.

Holland, 57, was arrested Dec. 23 in Las Vegas after officers found the remains of Richard P. Miller, 65, in coolers taped shut in the bed of a 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche that Holland allegedly stole after exiting a separate stolen car he was already using to flee from police.

David Westbrook, Holland's public defender, argued that it made no sense for Holland to lead the police to the body parts in the truck while they were chasing him if he knew the remains were there.

He argued that police and prosecutors had to prove that the body was in the car, that Holland knew about it, and that he killed the man while vying to get his client out on bail as the case progressed.

Judge Harmony Letizia issued an order for Holland to remain in jail until a Jan. 27 hearing that will allow for the presentation of more evidence in the case.

"Proof is evident and the presumption is great that Mr. Holland committed murder," Letizia said.

Eric Holland, Las Vegas Nevada, Severed Head
This Clark County, Nev., Detention Center photo provided by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police shows Eric Holland, 57, following his arrest on Dec. 23, 2021, in Las Vegas. The 57-year-old ex-felon lost a bid to get out of a Las Vegas jail while facing a murder charge stemming from the discovery of a severed head and body parts in his allegedly stolen vehicle. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP File

The Clark County coroner said Miller died Dec. 23 from multiple gunshot wounds and ruled the case a homicide.

Police and prosecutors said Miller and Holland were acquainted, but have not described a motive for the killing.

Westbrook said outside court his client intends to plead not guilty.

In court he conceded that his client "was caught while running from police," but challenged police searches of coolers found taped closed in the bed of the 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche that Holland was found driving.

Prosecutor Giancarlo Pesci showed photos to the judge of Miller's head and questioned two police detectives who testified that along with three handguns, police found receipts for a power saw, construction-grade plastic bags and heavy-duty tape among Holland's possessions.

Pesci said bullets from at least one of the guns were found in Miller's head and body parts.

Detective Tate Sanborn testified that home improvement store video also showed a person who looked like Holland buying a saw and other items.

Westbrook asked Ricardo Auerbach, the police detective who found Miller's head in a cooler, if he first obtained a warrant to search the Avalanche.

Auerbach responded that he was conducting a standard inventory check before the vehicle was impounded and towed away as evidence. Auerbach said he opened the cooler after noticing a smell like decay or fish.

Sanborn said he later obtained a warrant for a more thorough search.

Pesci has said Holland had prior felony and federal criminal convictions dating to the 1980s in states including California, Texas and Nevada under names including Eric John Holland and Eric Allen Holland.

Nevada prison records say Holland used names including John Carl Hall, Phil Whidden, Robert Daniel Lauer and Steven Tauber.

Outside court, Westbrook told reporters that prosecutors had yet to show that Holland knew when fled from police in an allegedly stolen 2018 Toyota Tundra and then switched vehicles to the Avalanche that he "had knowledge of what was in the Avalanche, and that he intentionally led police to the evidence."

"Why would he do that?" the defense attorney asked.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.