Maryland Murder Solved by a DNA Sample

It looked like a crime that would gather dust in the cold case file and remain unsolved for years to come, if not forever. But that changed thanks to a strong dose of modern technology.

How long Ryan Holness had wanted to eliminate his wife, Serika Dunkley Holness, is not known. What is clear is that he began acting on that impulse in 2008 when he pretended to be his wife and purchased a $500,000 life insurance policy via the Internet. He named himself as the sole beneficiary. The policy would not have been issued if the insurer had known who the buyer was.

In early 2009, Holness contacted an accomplice, and the two men made a plan to kill Serika Holness and make it look like a carjacking on a drive through Maryland.

Dumped in a field

In June 2009, Holness, his accomplice and the victim drove from New York to Maryland. Around 1:30 a.m. on June 5, the three were in a rural area of Kent County, Maryland. Holness parked the car on a farm access road. Serika Holness was stabbed to death and her body was dumped in a field.

The accomplice purposely left his own blood at the murder scene to bolster Holness’ claim that an unknown carjacker attacked the travelers and murdered the victim. The car was driven to Washington, D.C., and abandoned.

Before long Holness was arrested and charged with premeditated murder. After a two-week trial, Ryan Holness, age 33, formerly of Lexington Park, Maryland, was convicted of domestic violence resulting in the death of a spouse and sentenced to life in prison.

Regular comparisons

The DNA profile of the unidentified male found at the crime scene was entered into the national DNA data base. It was regularly compared with DNA profiles entered since then. In October 2013, a sample of Dellando Recardo Campbell’s DNA was taken by police in Lemoore, California, in an unrelated incident. In January 2014, the California Department of Justice notified Maryland authorities that Campbell’s DNA profile matched the DNA profile for the unidentified male in the Holness case.

Campbell was arrested. It turns out he had known Ryan Holness since 2002, when they served together in the Navy. Campbell admitted his part in the murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison in connection of the death of Serika Dunkley Holness.

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