WOMAN ACQUITTED IN FATAL STABBING

THE DEFENDANT JUMPED FOR JOY AT THE VERDICT, BUT THE VICTIM'S DAUGHTER PASSED A JUDGMENT OF HER OWN.

JOHN O'BRIEN The Post-Standard

Erma Holmes leaped from her chair in a Syracuse courtroom Friday, shouting in elation when a jury foreman announced she was not guilty of first-degree manslaughter.

Holmes then slumped back into her chair at the defense table as her family and friends let out a chorus of cheers upon hearing the 5 p.m. verdict. Across the courtroom, the family of James "Ike" Williams, the man Holmes was accused of stabbing to death, was shocked by the jury's decision.

"It's a very sad moment for me and my family, because we know Ms. Holmes did it - everyone knows she did it," said Williams' daughter, Jacqueline Bean of Syracuse. "My father was a good man. He had his faults, but he certainly didn't deserve this."

The Onondaga County Court jury deliberated about three hours before acquitting Holmes of the only charge she was facing in the June 1 or 2 slaying of Williams.

Williams, 74, of 711 Hazelwood Ave., was found dead June 2, his body lying face down on the front porch of 206 W. Castle St. A heavy trail of blood led back across the street to an apartment building where Holmes lived at 201 W. Castle St.

Holmes' lawyer, George Hildebrandt, disputed prosecutor Richard Southwick's contention that the blood trail led literally and figuratively to Holmes' door.

"I think that, literally and figuratively, it stopped short," Hildebrandt said after the verdict.

The blood trail led to the apartment house, but not directly to Holmes' apartment, he said. Hildebrandt contended the prosecution didn't have enough proof that Holmes was the person who stabbed Williams in the neck.

Holmes, 48, would have faced up to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison if she'd been convicted.

Southwick declined to comment after the verdict.

Two witnesses testified in the four-day trial, before Judge William J. Burke, that they saw Holmes outside her home on the night of the slaying, and that she admitted stabbing a man. Just before that, another witness saw Williams staggering from Holmes' apartment with his shirt soaked by blood.

Williams' body was found in a puddle of blood, with a jackknife close by, police said.

Police found Williams' senior bus pass in a trash can in Holmes' apartment.

"It was all there," said Bean, 37, one of Williams' six children. "I don't understand it."

She said she fears Holmes might attack someone else. Holmes was expected to be released from jail Friday night.

Holmes was arrested in January on a felony assault charge after police accused her of stabbing Shepherd during a fight with kitchen knives.

"It's very upsetting," Bean said. "But I feel no anger for her. God works in mysterious ways. There is a reason for everything."