“You know who I am.”
Those five words confirmed to Gonzales County authorities on Thursday, Oct. 26, they had, indeed, found fugitive child sexual predator Donald Paul “Donnie” Holland Jr. at a Gonzales residence.
The same Donnie Holland Jr. who was arrested and charged with second-degree rape as part of an investigation into the disappearance of his cousin, Brittney Wood, in Alabama in 2012, as well as a child sexual ring that involved passing children back and forth among family members and friends of the Wood and Holland families for sex.
Holland had apparently cut off a court-ordered ankle monitor while in Florida and had absconded to Texas, settling in Gonzales.
“We had some good intel on him and we were able to go and locate him and make sure it was him,” Gonzales Sheriff Keith Schmidt said. “He came outside the home and our deputies went up to him and one of them asked him if he was Donnie. He said, ‘You know who I am.’ He knew we had him at that point.
“We were able to take him into custody without incident. We really didn’t give him any other options. There were some kids nearby we were concerned about because we didn’t want him getting any ideas (of using them as human shields).”
Schmidt said he does not know what prompted Holland to choose Gonzales for a hiding place and did not know for sure how long he had been in the community, but speculated that it had been for “the last several months,” meaning Holland was in Gonzales during Back to School Night and Come & Take It — large events which brought a great number of children to Independence Square downtown.
“We don’t think he did anything while he was in Gonzales,” Schmidt said. “We haven’t had any reports yet and we think he was trying to hide and not draw attention to himself.”
A three-part miniseries which aired on Peacock TV, titled “Monster in the Shadows,” chronicles the investigation into the disappearance of Brittney Wood and the charges that were brought against 11 people — including eight members of the Wood and Holland families — for their role in an incestuous underage sex ring in the aftermath.
It was believed that Brittney Wood, who was a 19-year-old mother of a two-year-old toddler at the time of her disappearance, had gone to visit her uncle, Donnie Holland — Donnie Holland Jr.’s father — on May 30, 2012, based on a cell tower ping that happened near his residence. Two days later, the elder Holland allegedly shot himself in the head and would die several days later.
Family members realized Brittney Wood was missing when they couldn’t find her to tell her about her uncle’s reported suicide. The ensuing investigation would unveil secrets and crimes that would shock not only Alabama residents, but the nation.
The elder Holland was considered by authorities to be the ringleader of the criminal activity committed by the family and was under investigation at the time of his death. His widow, Wendy Holland — Donnie Jr.’s mother — was charged with first-degree sodomy, sexual torture and sex abuse.
Donnie Holland Jr. was charged with second-degree rape for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl. His cousin Derek Wood — Brittney’s brother — and one of Donnie’s friends, William Brownlee, were also charged with raping the same victim.
While Wood and Brownlee were charged as adults, Holland succeeded in getting himself charged as a “youthful offender,” which allows someone who committed a crime while under the age of 21 to plead guilty to their crime, gain a lighter sentence, and have record of the crime permanently sealed from the public.
Holland was registered as a sex offender with a last-known address online in Millry, Alabama. He had an August 2021 arrest in Florida for a sex offender vioation. After his most recent arrest, he is currently in the Gonzales County Jail, awaiting extradition to Florida.
“The Gonzales County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the City of Gonzales Police Department for their assistance in getting this violent criminal out of our community. As always, our number one priority is to keep our community safe,” Schmidt said.
Information from prior reporting by AL.com contributed to this report.