Man accused of killing Megan McDonald 20 years ago to be set free
News 12 is learning more about what’s next in the high-profile Megan McDonald murder case in Orange County, now that the longtime suspect who was just charged is being released.
Town of Wallkill Judge Peter Green ruled Wednesday that Edward Holley can no longer be held behind bars after prosecutors said they were unable to present the 20-year-old cold case to a grand jury within six days from his arrest, as required by law.
Holley was in Orange County Jail on an unrelated drug conviction, but News 12 learned his sentence in that case ends Thursday, when he’ll now be released.
On Tuesday, Orange County DA David Hoovler announced that he requested a special prosecutor be appointed in the case.
The DA's office says that before becoming a DA, and while in private practice, "Hoovler represented a client in negotiations with the DA's office regarding potential information that client might provide regarding McDonald's death. That person died before DA Hoovler took office."
It went on to say the following: "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 17-page felony complaint in advance of it being filed with the court. 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."
Holley’s defense attorney, Paul Weber, spoke after court and says the murder case is riddled with problems.
“I don’t think my client should be charged,” said Weber. “Even in the 18-page complaint, I don’t think they have enough probable cause to even make an arrest.”
State police said last week that new DNA technology helped link Holley to the 2003 Town of Wallkill crime. The 42-year-old Wawayanda man was McDonald's ex-boyfriend. Police say he owed her money and was upset she broke up with him and started seeing someone else.
According to the complaint, Holley’s DNA was found on her cellphone and in the backseat of her car – where she was killed.
A former prosecutor News 12 interviewed last week and Holley’s defense attorney say that evidence is not ironclad and may not result in an indictment, let alone conviction.
“Just reading the complaint, there’s two other suspects that probably should have been charged,” said Weber.
McDonald’s new boyfriend at the time has not been mentioned as a possible suspect. News 12 has no information about how or why he was cleared of any wrongdoing.
A second suspect was mentioned in the police complaint but died in 2010. Nothing about that person’s possible role in her death has been made clear.
McDonald's family issued a statement to News 12 saying, “After patiently waiting for over 20 years, we are confident that the police have the right person – Edward Holley. The process may not be easy or follow our preferred path, but we will not rest until justice is secured for Megan.”
State police won’t comment on why the district attorney’s office was unaware of the arrest ahead of time, but said they’re committed to helping prosecutors ensure Holley is held accountable.
District Attorney Dave Hoovler signaled to possible problems in the case last week when he said the arrest wasn’t coordinated with his office, which is common practice in complicated cold cases.
Prosecutors now have six months by law to indict Holley or the case can be dismissed.