Two years, five months and one week after Brian Beaver’s death, the man who killed him finally began serving his prison sentence.
Brian Holm, 52, of Lolo, reported to the Missoula County jail Tuesday afternoon to begin the process that eventually will take him to the state prison in Deer Lodge.
“Now we’re going to actually start healing,” said Teesha Beaver, whose brother died Nov. 9, 2010, when Holm’s car veered across oncoming traffic lanes on Brooks Street and onto the sidewalk, striking Beaver, who was walking there with two friends.
Holm’s blood alcohol content rendered him legally drunk that night, and he’d also been taking a painkiller, sleep aid and anti-depressant prescribed to him, according to court documents.
A Missoula County District Court jury in 2011 found Holm guilty of vehicular homicide while under the influence, and Judge Dusty Deschamps sentenced him to 30 years in prison with 15 suspended. But that sentence was delayed as Holm filed motion after motion, and also traveled to Minnesota, where his sister lives, for heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in February.
Most recently, he sought to postpone going to prison again so that he could spend 12 weeks in cardiac rehab. Deschamps denied that motion and ordered Holm to appear in court Tuesday afternoon for “execution of sentence.”
The Beaver family, of Washington state, had a brief scare Monday when they heard that court hearing had been vacated in favor of allowing Holm to report to the jail on his own by 1 p.m. Tuesday.
“I thought, ‘Oh, no, here we go again,’ ” said Beaver’s mother, Virginia, whose ill health prevented her from traveling to Missoula for Holm’s trial or subsequent court actions.
“I was worried, thinking he might not show up,” said Teesha Beaver. When a friend texted her a photo of Holm walking into the jail, “I was sitting at my computer squealing like a little girl,” she said.
Teesha Beaver has never actually met the woman who sent her the photo, but said the woman is one of many Missoula residents who have contacted her family with sympathy and support.
“The outreach has been phenomenal,” she said. “I don’t begrudge Missoula. I begrudge the justice system and obviously Holm for his part in it, in terms of his stupidity for getting behind the wheel in the first place and taking the life of my brother.”
Brian Beaver of Aberdeen, Wash., had been on a trip to Yellowstone National Park with two boyhood friends when the trio stopped in Missoula for the night. He had a wife and 3-year-old son. He’d also nursed his mother through her recovery from a double lung transplant several years earlier. Since his death, Virginia Beaver has survived breast cancer and now is undergoing tests for a potential heart problem.
When her daughter forwarded her the photos Tuesday of Holm walking into the jail, it was a rare moment of brightness, she said.
“I’d like to give everybody there (in Missoula) a big hug,” she said. “They definitely helped me through it.
The woman who texted the photos Tuesday – she would not give her name – waited outside the jail as a chilly morning turned into what felt like an even colder, grayer afternoon.
“I really feel badly for the (Beaver) family,” said the woman, who didn’t attend Holm’s trial but said the case captivated her as Holm pushed his sentence further and further back.
She was so worried that he wouldn’t report as planned Tuesday that she called Deschamps’ office that morning and was assured Holm had returned from Minnesota to Missoula.
There was no Holm at 1 p.m., but a friend of his lingering outside the jail told the woman and waiting journalists that Holm was on his way. A couple of minutes later, a black pickup delivered Holm.
As he made his way across the parking lot, his sister from Minnesota attempted to deflect photographs by holding a cardboard box in front of her brother’s face. When Holm was asked if he wanted to say anything, his sister answered for him that he did not.
“It would just get twisted anyway,” Holm muttered.
The woman stood a few feet away from the door at the jail, holding up her phone and recording the moment as Holm lingered, saying goodbye to his sister. She did not step away until the door closed.
“Finally,” she said quietly. “Finally, finally, finally.”
In Washington, Virginia Beaver echoed her words.
“Finally, some justice,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”