Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kidnapping and Murder of Brooke Hart

'We Did It'

Sheriff Emig was concerned about the mood of people in San Jose. The abduction of young Brooke had angered the entire county. The Harts were one of the most respected and well-known families in the area. They employed hundreds of citizens in their business and just about everyone had met a Hart family member at one time or another. Because of his concern, Sheriff Emig and the FBI took Holmes to San Francisco where the interrogation continued. At first, Holmes denied being part of the scheme and said that he had never called the Hart family. But agents soon convinced Holmes that he had to cooperate since the truth was already known.

"I, John Maurice Holmes, in the presence of Sheriff Emig of Santa Clara County Police...make this statement voluntarily," the FBI report begins. Holmes recited his involvement in the crime and told police how he planned the abduction with Harold Thurman. He said that he observed Brooke on several occasions prior to November 9 and thought it would be better to snatch the young man when he could be found alone. From the very beginning, Holmes said, he could not think of a place to hold Brooke while negotiations went on. "You know the smart thing is to dump that guy overboard someplace," Holmes said to Thurmond before the kidnapping. Later when they had Brooke on the San Mateo bridge, Holmes said he knocked the victim to the ground. "Then the wire and started wrapping his feet and hands...I hit him pretty hard, I wanted him to know that we meant business...Harold got the two concrete blocks and tied them around his feet and we tossed him overboard."

Swift Justice
Swift Justice

Holmes' statement added one important detail. He said that after they dumped Brooke into the bay, he managed to free himself from the wire. When they saw the young man thrashing about in the water, yelling for help, they decided to act. Harold took the gun and "climbed down on the stringers and fired the cartridges that were in the pistol." Holmes told police that Harold fired several shots at Hart until the noise stopped and all was quiet. Then, Holmes said, he drove home where he met his wife and took her to the local picture show. According to author Harry Farrell author of Swift Justice, the movie showing that night was Disney's The Three Little Pigs.

Soon, the details of Holmes' confession were public. Rumors of additional crimes committed by the suspects soon circulated throughout the county. The next day, a San Jose newspaper published an editorial titled Human Devils. In it, the suggestion of what should be done with the suspects was made very clear. According to Farrell, the editorial said, "If mob violence could ever be justified it would be in a case like this and we believe the general public will agree with us," the editorial said. "If you could have been with the writer who called at the Hart home to offer our would have made you feel like going out and committing a lynching yourself."

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