HARRISON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - A capital murder suspect accused of shooting a Gulfport teenager then fleeing to New Mexico, leading officers there on a high-speed chase that ended in a shootout, appeared in a Harrison County courtroom Friday morning.
Despite being deemed incompetent to stand trial for the charges in New Mexico, Holloway was found competent to stand trial on capital murder charges in Mississippi, which carry a potential death row sentence.
Friday morning, Holloway was given the opportunity to enter a plea and pleaded guilty to the murder in exchange for a life sentence.
Holloway showed no emotion as he entered the courtroom, crowded with family members of Ray Howze.
They addressed Holloway directly as they delivered an emotional plea to the man who killed their loved one.
“Ray was a jokester and loved being silly. He loved seeing smiles on the faces of his family and friends... Now, all we have are memories, memories we will cherish for the rest of our lives.
“D’Juan Holloway, you stole something precious from us on Jan. 11, 2015. Our family has experienced turmoil since that day. D’Juan, you shot Ray from behind in cold blood. Ray didn’t even see your face before you shot him down like he was nothing. Your heart was evil on that day.”
The family spokeswoman said they had forgiven Holloway and talked about the irony of him being spared his life when Howze was not spared.
“We are here today expecting a plea from you to spare your life, to give you an opportunity to live even though you didn’t give Ray a chance to live. I find it ironic that you, who took the life of our baby, sits here today waiting to have your life spared.
“We forgive you and we will let God have his way with you... There is no real justice for Ray today... Nothing done to you will ever bring Ray back to us.”
Holding up a photo of Howze so Holloway could see, she continued: “This is what you took from our family. I hope you become a better man. Although you will never walk free, I ask you today to please tell us why you did this. I pray God will touch your heart to give us the truth, give us that please. On behalf of Ray’s family, friends, and loved ones, we say to you: may the Lord have mercy on your soul."
After Holloway declined to make any comments in response to the family’s impassioned pleas, the judge sentenced him to life in prison without possibility of parole, probation, or early release.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” said Crosby Parker, chief assistant district attorney. “Ray Howze was 19 years old. He walked out of a convenience store at 5:40 in the afternoon, and he was ambushed. He was shot from behind.”
Howze was killed near a Gulfport convenience store on Old Pass Road in January 2015. After allegedly shooting the young man, Holloway stole the victim’s car and took off across the country. A New Mexico State police officer spotted the suspect on Interstate 10 and tried to pull him over.
That’s when investigators say Holloway took off, eventually leading officers from four different agencies on a chase that ended in gunfire. The officers said Holloway fired shots at them and they fired back. Dashboard and body cameras captured the shootout between Holloway and law enforcement. Holloway was shot several times in his side and arm.
The New Mexico charges against Holloway for the chase and the shootout were later dropped, with authorities there saying he wasn’t competent to stand trial. After refusing extradition, New Mexico eventually abided by a governor’s warrant, allowing Holloway to return to Mississippi in May 2016 to face the capital murder charge.
Since 2016, Holloway has undergone psychological evaluations before being deemed competent to stand trial earlier this year.
“Unfortunately, in a case like this, there is no answer that is satisfactory for a 19-year-old to lose their life,” Parker added.