A superior court judge issued an order Thursday that compels a Cochise County man to appear in a California court next March to testify in a death penalty murder trial.
Judge David Thorn announced his order following an evidentiary hearing on whether Fred McLain would suffer an “undue hardship” if forced to travel from his home in Huachuca City to Monterey County, California for the trial of Charles Allen Holifield, who is charged with kidnapping and killing a girl in 1998.
McLain previously lived in the Monterey area near Fort Ord where 13-year-old Christina Williams disappeared in June 1998 while walking her dog. The girl’s body was found several months later. Authorities determined she had also been sexually assaulted.
A witness subpoena was issued in September at the request of the Monterey County Public Defender’s Office which is representing Holifield. The subpoena doesn’t reveal what McLain will testify about, but it indicates the testimony is “material and necessary.”
During the Nov. 14 hearing, Thorn had to determine whether the California subpoena complied with Arizona’s state law. Holifield’s defense attorneys were represented in court by Sierra Vista attorney Roger Contreras, while McLain was present without legal counsel.
Thorn noted that “it doesn’t get more serious than that” when Contreras informed him the California case involves a possible death penalty. The judge said he intended to issue the material witness order unless McLain could demonstrate that he would face a disproportionate burden or undue hardship if forced to travel to Monterey County for the trial.
McLain agreed to abide by the subpoena and order, stating it was his “moral obligation” to make himself available for the trial, no matter what hardship it may cause.
California court records reveal Holifield was identified as a possible suspect at the time of Williams’ disappearance due to his prior convictions for sexually assaulting two girls between 1979 to 1983 in the Fort Ord area. However, he had an alibi and there was no physical evidence connecting him to the body.
A cold case team took a new look at the file in 2016 and arranged to have crime scene evidence tested for DNA. Those results directed investigators toward Holifield, who was in a California prison on a 25 years-to-life sentence for an attempted kidnapping incident near Fort Ord in September 1998.
Holifield was arrested in April 2017 on charges of first-degree murder with special circumstances for kidnapping and sexual assault. Under California law, the jury will determine whether he is sentenced to death if they find him guilty.