Megan McDonald’s alleged killer set free, special prosecutor takes over cold case
An arrest may have been made one week ago in the killing of Megan McDonald, but it’s not clear if the case is ironclad.
Longtime suspect Edward Holley was quietly let go from Orange County Jail on Wednesday after prosecutors said in Wallkill Town Court that they couldn’t present it to a grand jury as quickly as the law requires.
The Orange County District Attorney's Office issued a bombshell release hours after the court appearance saying the office can’t prosecute the case because District Attorney David Hoovler previously represented a second unnamed murder suspect who died and is mentioned in the state police complaint.
"Although the District Attorney’s Office had been consulting with the New York State Police on issues during the investigation, the District Attorney’s Office was neither alerted to defendant’s imminent arrest, nor given an opportunity to review the seventeen-page felony complaint in advance of it being filed with the court," said the Orange County District Attorney's office release. "Based on the theory of the case as set forth in the felony complaint, coupled with the facts concerning District Attorney Hoovler’s prior legal representation, there would be a substantial appearance of a conflict of interest if the prosecution of this case remained with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Accordingly, it is in the best interest of all parties, as well as the appearance of fairness in the administration of justice, that this matter be handled by a Special Prosecutor."
The case seemingly started unraveling last week when Hoovler said state police didn’t notify his office they were making an arrest – something considered common practice in a cold case of this magnitude.
“This is what happens when the state police act on their own accord, and I’m going to use the term ‘go rogue,'" said Rick Trunfio, a former Onondaga County prosecutor who teaches law at Syracuse University.
“What the state police have done is they have fueled the victims with expectations that should have never been given to them," said Trunfio.
Former Bronx County and Westchester County prosecutor Julia Corachio is now the special prosecutor assigned to take over. She told News 12 Thursday by phone that she and her team are already diving into 20 years of evidence.
Prosecutors by law have six months to indict Holley or else the case can be thrown out.
State police say new DNA technology and evidence prove Holley is the killer. His DNA was allegedly found on Megan’s cellphone and where she was killed in her car, according to the state police complaint.
Holley is McDonald's former boyfriend. Police say he owed the 20-year-old Town of Wallkill college student money and was jealous she started seeing someone else.
According to the complaint, cellphone data shows the former couple were also in the same area at the time it's believed McDonald was killed. Trunfio says all of that may not be enough to indict or convict him – especially since other evidence may point to at least one more suspect in the case.
“Prosecutors can’t ignore that evidence," said Trunfio. “We’ll know in six months if they can put a case together.”
State police won’t say why they didn’t notify prosecutors they were making an arrest but said they’re committed to ensuring Holley is held accountable for the murder.
Orders of protection were issued Wednesday on behalf of Megan’s mother, Elizabeth McDonald, and her sister, Karen Whalen.
The family issued a statement saying that while they're disappointed with Edward Holley's release, they're confident police have arrested the right person and will not rest until justice is served.
Holley is due back in court May 3.