Daughter led difficult life, mom says

Marine veteran accused of killing children, self came from a broken home, her mother says. Orvalnett Holmes did not know of daughter’s death until contacted by AJC.

Staff writer Daniel Malloy reported from Washington.

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The Cobb County mother accused of killing her three children before committing suicide came from a broken home and had struggles throughout her life, her mother told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday.

Kisha S. Holmes, a Marine veteran, grew up in New York and was put in foster care at age 6 after her mother was accused of neglect by the state, according to Orvalnett Holmes, her mother, who lives in the the Bronx borough of New York City.

Holmes told the AJC in an interview that she had not spoken to her daughter for two years. The last call she received was around Thanksgiving two years ago and her daughter was preparing a big meal for her children.

Holmes said she was unaware of her daughter’s whereabouts and had not been notified of her death until the AJC called Monday evening.

“I don’t know why she did that,” said Holmes, 60. “I would have helped her.”

Holmes, 35, was found dead last Tuesday in her Austell apartment along with her three children, two boys, age 10 and 4, and a 9-month-old daughter. Her mother was unaware Holmes had had a third child, or that she was also pregnant with a fourth.

The Department of Veterans Affairs had identified Holmes as a “high risk for suicide” and she missed two scheduled appointments in December for a mental health assessment, records show. The VA and its Atlanta director, Leslie Wiggins, have refused to answer questions about the case but say they are conducting an investigation into the care she received at the Atlanta VA. She had a third appointment scheduled for last Tuesday, the day her body was discovered.

VA officials have not said if caseworkers followed up with Holmes after she was a no-show at any of her appointments.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the new chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, referred to Holmes’ case from the Senate floor Monday while promoting legislation to improve suicide prevention programs at the VA.

“We don’t know yet the cause, we don’t know yet the root cause of it, but we know the individual may have had mental health problems, and was a veteran of the War in Afghanistan, and took their life and the life of their children,” Isakson said.

Her mother, Orvalnett, said Kisha grew up in the foster care system and attended Catholic school in New York, describing her as a good student. She entered the Marines at age 18 and spent four years in service, her mother said. After leaving active duty, she went to work at a military facility in Brooklyn. Her mother said she thought Kisha may have had difficulties at that job that prompted her to leave.

Orvalnett Holmes said she herself has had mental health issues over her life and lived in a mental health facility in New York for about four years, but she said there was no history of suicide in their family. She was never married to Kisha’s father. Orvalnett Holmes said he physically abused her and said he later died in jail.

After leaving her job in Brooklyn, Kisha moved to Norfolk, Va., with a female friend she’d met in the Marines. She got married and became pregnant, but she struggled, according to her mother.

At one point, her mother said, she thought Kisha may have suffered a nervous breakdown and cited one time when Holmes jumped on a couch and held her hands in the air like she was holding a machine gun.

Holmes’ marriage didn’t last long, her mother said, and during her first pregnancy she considered having an abortion. Her mother said she was against her daughter moving South because it was too far from New York.

“I didn’t think it was good for her to be away from the family,” she said.

Kisha reached out to her mother for help about four years ago after the birth of her second child. Money was tight, her mother said, and she needed assistance. Her mother had no money to send, but another relative sent her diapers.

The tragedy involving Holmes and her three children unfolded Jan. 27 when a maintenance worker at the South Cobb apartment complex where Holmes lived discovered the mother and her children dead.

The Cobb County Medical Examiner has conducted autopsies on the bodies and could release its findings as early as Tuesday. Cobb police have not released any details about the manner in which Holmes took her own life or killed her children.

The eldest, 10-year-old Justin Carter Medina, was scheduled to be laid to rest Monday in Virginia where his father’s family lives.

Over the phone Monday night from her residence in New York City, Orvalnett seemed disoriented and became emotional as the news of her daughter’s death and those of her grandchildren sank in.

She is listed in Kisha’s VA medical records as an emergency contact, but Orvalnett said she was never contacted by anyone at VA regarding her daughter’s mental health difficulties, either prior to or after her death.

“I can’t believe what I’m hearing,” she said. She turned 60 in August and had hoped her daughter would call. Holmes never did.

“Two years I’ve been waiting for her to call,” she said. “I’m still waiting.”