Van Metre sentenced to life for kidnapping Holly Ann Blake, 28, was strangled, burned

August 15, 1996|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

As a federal judge put James Howard Van Metre III in prison yesterday for the rest of his life, the convicted kidnapper and rapist -- described in court as "rotten to the core" -- showed no emotion and said nothing in his defense.

Sitting near Van Metre, Bernard Blake wept as the judge VTC pronounced the maximum sentence of life in prison without parole for kidnapping Blake's former wife, Holly Ann Blake. Van Metre admitted to killing the 28-year-old mother of two, then burning her body on his brother's Maryland farm five years ago.

He was found guilty of first-degree murder in Carroll County Circuit Court in 1993, but the verdict was reversed when the state Court of Special Appeals ruled that the yearlong wait between his indictment and trial had violated Van Metre's right to a speedy trial.

A federal court jury in Baltimore convicted Van Metre on May 20 of kidnapping Holly Ann Blake.

During yesterday's sentencing in federal court in Baltimore, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew G. W. Norman described Van Metre, 39, as a "barbaric individual" who is "rotten to the core" and dangerous, "especially to women."

Norman said Van Metre -- who confessed that he killed Blake after she questioned his manhood -- has no positive redeemable qualities and "should be warehoused in a secure institution for the rest of his life."

Van Metre's lawyer, Gregg L. Bernstein, argued for a lighter sentence -- which he did not specify -- because he said Van Metre's reason for kidnapping Blake was to sexually assault her, not to murder her.

But U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz said Van Metre "knew very well that he might end up killing" Blake when he took her from Pennsylvania to his brother's Carroll County farm.

Motz referred to testimony during the trial from a Mennonite woman raped by Van Metre 11 days before he killed Blake. The woman said she prayed for God to forgive her attacker and told Van Metre during the rape that she had compassion for him.

Motz said he believed that Van Metre spared the woman's life only because she told him she had prayed for him.

"It was almost as if her prayer was answered," Motz said.

Motz also gave Van Metre a 20-year sentence to run concurrently with the life sentence for soliciting another inmate to kill the Mennonite woman after she testified against him. He already is serving a 15 1/2 -to-35-year sentence in a Pennsylvania prison for that rape.

Bernstein said he will appeal the kidnapping conviction.

Blake, whose body Van Metre burned after he strangled her, is survived by two daughters, now ages 14 and 15.

After yesterday's sentencing, her former husband said he would have preferred to see Van Metre sentenced to death.

"I think they're being too easy on him. He took a life nobody could replace. The children don't deserve it."

Pub Date: 8/15/96

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