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The Hunter: Searching for Kelli Bordeaux

When a young U.S. Army combat medic goes missing, a bounty hunter takes on his biggest case ever

Produced by Marc Goldbaum, Paul LaRosa and Jonathan Leach

David Marshburn was watching the news in the spring of 2012 when he heard about United States Army Specialist Kelli Bordeaux. The 23-year-old combat medic had gone missing from Fayetteville, North Carolina, home to Fort Bragg.

Spc. Kelly Bordeaux
Spc. Kelly Bordeaux
A Soldiers Image Inc. Ryan R.Garrison President

"When Kelli Bordeaux went missing it was huge," Marshburn said. "It was all over the national news. It got attention everywhere."

"Why do you think that is?" "48 Hours" correspondent Troy Roberts asked.

"Because she was a young female ... Fort Bragg soldier. It's a story," he replied. "She's one of ours that protect us. So I felt the need to protect her. I'm thinking, 'You can help find this person ... That's what you're good at, do it.'"

After all, Marshburn, a newly-minted private investigator, makes his living as a full-time bounty hunter.

"How many criminals have you captured would you say?" Roberts asked.

"If I had to guess a number, over 500," Marshburn replied.

It was just days into the police investigation that Marshburn, now a CBS News consultant, decided on his own to take on Kelli's case. He did not tell the police or Kelli's mother, Johnna Henson, about his secret investigation.

"She was a United States soldier. She was very proud of that. She was a determined young woman. ...She wasn't just a nobody. She wasn't just some girl," Henson said. "She was a girly girl, but yet she was tough."

All Henson knew in April 2012 was that her youngest child -- "her baby" -- had vanished into the night.

"I really thought ... 'She must be at a friend's house ... they'll find her in a few hours. That'll be that,'" Henson told Roberts. "I didn't really panic until, like, a day went by. Then it was like, 'Nobody's seen her since Friday.' So then I was like, 'Wait a minute. OK, now I'm really startin' to panic.'"

The case gripped the community and hundreds of people turned out to help search.

The Army also reached out to Mike Bordeaux, Kelli's estranged husband. Bordeaux told Kelli's superiors that he'd been living in Florida and had no idea where Kelli was.

"Mike called me ... and he said, 'Hey, have you talked to your sister today?' And I was like, 'No, she should be in formation,'" Olivia Cox, Kelli's sister," said. "And he's like, 'No, she's not.'"

"'Let me call her,'" Cox continued. "So then I called her and I called her and I called her. And then I called him back and I was like, 'Where is she?' And he's like, 'I don't know.'"

Kelli's family immediately headed to Fayetteville Police headquarters where they met with the lead investigator on the case, Detective Jeff Locklear, who took Henson aside.

"I said, 'You're a mother. And I know you're never gonna give up hope even to the last minute,'" said Det. Locklear.

At that point, no one had heard from Kelli for three days.

"I used the old adage, 'We're gonna hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,'" the detective continued. "And as she's walkin' out the door, she turned around and she simply said this: 'Find my baby.'"

"All I want is my sister. I just want Kelli Bordeaux to be brought back safe and sound. ...Please give her back," an emotional Olivia Cox told reporters.

Everyone who knew Kelli said it was not like her to walk away from obligations. She's always been determined -- all the way back to high school when she was an A student who also ran track and was on a cheerleading squad.

"She excelled at basically everything," Cox said, "but she never would rub it in your face."

And Kelli was said to have a personality that matched her intelligence.

"According to her mom and her sister, Kelli was full of fire," said Det. Locklear.

The selfie Kelli Bordeaux sent her sister
The selfie Kelli Bordeaux sent her sister
Cumberland County D.A.'s Office

On the night of April 13, 2012, as she was heading out the door, Kelli took a selfie and sent it to her sister.

"The last picture -- the one that she sent of her in the outfit, it would say, 'Does this look OK? And I was like, 'Yeah, you look cute,'" said Cox.

Kelli went to the Froggy Bottoms bar where witnesses remembered that she was drinking, playing pool and singing karaoke.

"She felt safe there because it was so close to home," Det. Locklear explained.

That was the last place she was seen. Police did not know what happened next, but Kelli's mother was deeply suspicious of husband Mike Bordeaux, because she knew Kelli had broken up with him only a week earlier.

"Kelli gave him $1,000 and a one-way ticket to Orlando and said, 'We're done,'" said Henson.

Mike Bordeaux had returned to Fayetteville and publicly denied he and Kelli had broken up. He was the concerned husband, taking part in searches and appearing on national TV.

"Me and her loved each other very much," Bordeaux told reporters. "Just please let her come home. Just let her come home to her family, me, friends. Just let her come home."

But Henson wasn't buying it and she confronted Mike Bordeaux.

"You know, 'I'm gonna ask you this, Mike.' You know, 'Did you do something to my daughter?'" said Henson.

"And what did he say to you?" Roberts asked.

"He slammed the phone down on me, actually," she replied with a laugh.

Mike Bordeaux called back and denied hurting Kelli. In the meantime, police began checking out his alibi. Was he really in Florida at the time Kelli disappeared? Detective Locklear went looking for answers and suspected he could find them on Kelli's cell phone.

"With this new generation," he explained, "the phone is just a gold mine of information. You wanna know something about a person get your hands on their phone."

Locklear couldn't get his hands on Kelli's phone but he got the next best thing -- the person she was texting that night: her new boyfriend, Justin Thompson.

"She was texting me throughout the night," Thompson said. "And at the end of the night-- and she texted like, 'Call me.'"

Thompson did not immediately see that text, but later he grew worried because he knew that Kelli was hanging out that night with a guy she'd only recently met, a bar worker named Nick Holbert.

"I told her, 'That guy is creepy, man,'" said Thompson.

Thompson had been with Kelli at Froggy Bottoms the week before when they'd met Holbert for the first time.

"She just took his number. I was there, you know, and he gave her the number. 'You know, if you guys need anything I work here,' kind of thing,'" he explained.


Holbert insisted he had nothing to do with Kelli's disappearance. He told the police and reporters that Kelli had asked him for a ride to and from the bar.

"Around 1, 1:30, she told me, 'I'm tired, I want to go home.' I said, 'OK.' So we got in the car. As soon as I pulled into Meadowbrook, she says, 'You can stop right here and let me out, I'll walk,'" he said. "I hate that she's missing and I hope that she is found."

That television interview piqued the interest of rookie private investigator David Marshburn.

"I saw the interview with Nick ... I said look, 'He did it. He took her. He killed her," he said.

But that theory had one big problem. Kelli's last text to her new boyfriend the night she disappeared. It read: "Got home safe I'm going to bed I'm tired and drunk call me tomorrow."

A SECRET INVESTIGATION

As weeks went by, there was still no sign of Kelli Bordeaux.

"The possibilities are endless," Cox said. "You know for a fact she's not AWOL ... at this point you're like, 'OK, who has her and where are the holding her?'"


Det. Jeff Locklear increasingly focused on Nick Holbert, the bar worker who said he'd driven Kelli to and from Froggy Bottoms the night she disappeared. And what Locklear heard had him worried.

"Nick has some anger issues," Det. Locklear explained. "...unrestrained anger issues, if you will. Was not able to control his outbursts sometimes ... he'd just get very angry very fast ... and do things."

And some of the things Holbert did were the stuff of nightmares. When he was a teenager, he was convicted of taking indecent liberties with a 5-year-old girl and served nearly five years in prison.

"When he got outta prison, he was kinda from here to there. He didn't have a stable place to stay," Det. Locklear said. "He just kinda moved around, that kinda stuff."

Upon his release, Holbert was a convicted sex offender who was required to register his address with authorities. But once he got that job at Froggy Bottoms, he began camping out in the woods behind the bar.

"He basically had a parachute and a tarp draped between two trees that he would pull his car under. So his car was more or less his tent," said Det. Locklear.

By this time, investigators had confirmed the alibis of Mike Bordeaux and Justin Thompson, who were both in Florida when Kelli vanished. They were cleared as suspects, but Locklear was still puzzled over that last text from Kelli's phone - the one that said she'd arrived home safely.

"I let her sister take a look at it. And she said, 'Kelli didn't send this text.' And I said, 'Well, how do you know?" She said, "When she texts, she texts in complete sentences. That's not the way that she sounds. It's not the way she would sound.' She said, 'I don't believe my sister sent this text message.'"

Detective Locklear suspected Nick Holbert had sent that text, but had no proof. And Holbert was cooperative. He continued speaking to investigators without a lawyer present, gave them a DNA sample, and even allowed them to search his car.

"What were your impressions of him?" Roberts asked Det. Locklear.

"He was ... simple ... wasn't angry," he replied. "He didn't sound secretive ... he answered the questions fairly quickly. Didn't act like he was hiding anything."

The police had no evidence Holbert had done anything to Kelli, but because he was a convicted sex offender and had not registered a permanent address, authorities were able to throw him in jail.

"It put Nick Holbert in a place where I knew he would be while this investigation went forward," said Det. Locklear.

That strategy did not sit well with David Marshburn, who was itching to talk to Holbert.

"When I found out they arrested Nick and put him in jail for the sex offender stuff, I thought, 'Well, if she was alive, she's dead now because ... they've incarcerated him," Marshburn said. "So I felt like it would be better off for him to be out than in."

In the meantime, police continued doing forensic testings on Holbert's campsite and car.

"Was Kelli's DNA found in his car?" Roberts asked Det. Locklear.

"No. Here's the issue with the car. He was living in that car," he replied. "It was dirty ... it was filled with clothing, trash. It was just in really bad shape -- crime scene investigator's nightmare."

As the weeks turned into months, Nick Holbert remained the No. 1 suspect in Kelli's disappearance, but police were not able to charge him.

"How great was your frustration when this case went cold?" Roberts asked.

"Well, for one, we're kinda careful about usin' the word cold in that homicide squad," Det. Locklear explained. "We adopted a motto ... 'There is no greater crime than the theft of a human life.' ...We take that seriously."

Kelli's family had no choice but to watch and seethe inside.

"It was extremely frustrating because for us, we can't force him to talk," Cox said. "We can't force you to confess even though everything is pointing to you."

Neither Locklear nor Kelli's family knew that David Marshburn was conducting his own secret investigation with the help of his assistant, Marsha Ward.

Nick Holbert's makeshift campsite in the woods behind the Froggy Bottoms bar
Nick Holbert's makeshift campsite in the woods behind the Froggy Bottoms bar
David Marshburn

Like the police, Marshburn closely examined Holbert's makeshift campsite, hoping to find clues investigators might have missed.

"This was his home," Marshburn explained standing at the campsite. "He knew this area very well ... like a hunter and that's about like he was, a hunter with his prey. ...He used netting, limbs, duct tape, plastic -- just all sorts of weird stuff."

In May 2013, a year-and-a-month after Kelli vanished, Nick Holbert was released from jail for failing to register as a sex offender. David Marshburn set off to meet him face to face.

"How did you begin your relationship with Nick?" Roberts asked.

"I was a little leery," Marshburn replied. "I said, 'Hey, Nick. How're you doing? I'm David Marshburn. I'm a private investigator and I'm trying to find Kelly Bordeaux.' ...I said, 'Will you talk to me?' He said, 'Yes.'"

Marshburn had a plan to make Holbert feel at ease.

"...the way I lined it up was, 'You didn't have nothing to do with her disappearance,'" he explained. "I want him to think I'm on his side. And it worked."

With no rules to follow, Marshburn then did something very unorthodox.

"I knew that was the one way I could keep him on my side was to pay him. And I paid him. Paid him every time I saw him," he explained.

"Wait. You paid him?" Roberts asked.

"I found out he had money issues. He needed money for cigarettes. He needed money to eat," Marshburn said. "I paid off his probation so he wouldn't go back to jail and I could continue talking to him.

"I was his friend," Marshburn continued. "And a true friend, if you need 'em -- they're there for you."

Nick Holbert and David Marshburn
Nick Holbert and David Marshburn
David Marshburn

As time wore on and Holbert began trusting Marshburn, the private eye documented the time they spent together with photos and a few months into his unofficial investigation, Marshburn finally told the police what he was up to.

"Well, they told me, 'Hey, we're not gonna tell you anything if you're talking to Nick - you -- you continue on," he explained. "They didn't want to put me in working with them because then it limits me, what I can do."

"So you didn't dismiss him?" Roberts asked Det. Locklear.

"We did not. And typically conventional police methods ... shy away from usin' somebody who's not a police officer or a detective ... to kinda get information from a guy. This is one of those special circumstances to where we felt like the time was right ... the person was right," he replied.

Marshburn was making inroads, but he paid a heavy price.

"Almost lost my family. Almost lost everything I had because of him. Because of the -- I'm getting ready to tear up," he said.

"Because of your obsession with the case?" Roberts asked.

"Give me a minute," an emotional Marshburn said, pausing. "It was hard for me because, you know, I know he did it. I'm sitting there with a killer. I know he done it."

A GAME OF CAT & MOUSE

"What do you miss the most?" Troy Roberts asked Johnna Henson.

"Being able to talk to her, to spend time with her ... do our girlie stuff together," she replied."I can actually still call her phone and hear her voice, which I'll do that every once in a while."

Kelli Bordeaux
Kelli Bordeaux
Johnna Henson

As time passed and investigators could give Kelli Bordeaux's family no answers, they became frustrated, as did Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West.

"For the Henson family and everybody that knew and loved Kelli, we wanted to bring some closure," said West.

"Did you think that this was just a case that was going to go cold and would never be solved?" Troy Roberts asked.

"It certainly was a concern," the D.A. replied.

While the official investigation into Kelli's disappearance had hit a road block, David Marshburn was getting ever closer to prime suspect Nick Holbert. Marshburn decided it was time to switch tactics and began baiting Holbert with a bunch of "what ifs".

"What if you did something, could you have blacked out? ... Could this have happened? Could that happen?" I was trying to give him outs," Marshburn explained. "'If something bad happened and you just didn't call 911, we can get you involuntary manslaughter, man. ...Trust me.'"

What Marshburn did next was more than just a bit unorthodox. He created a fake plea bargain implicating Holbert in Kelli's murder, including the unbelievable offer that Holbert would serve no more than 36 months in prison. Marshburn told Holbert the police wanted him to sign it.

"He thought about it and looked at it. ... And then he just tossed it back to me and said, "'No, I'm not gonna sign it because they're just gonna change their mind. They'll take it back,'" said Marshburn.

But Holbert did not reject it outright as any innocent man would.

"At that point, I knew I had him 100,000 percent," Marshburn explained. "I had the right guy. I had the man."

Marshburn applied even more pressure, having a friend sit outside Holbert's apartment in what looked like an unmarked police car.

"That morning when I picked him up he's like ... 'Well, they're watching me. They're watching me all the time. ... I've seen 'em watch me.' He's real paranoid," said Marshburn.

Marshburn was not done playing mind games. He also invented an imaginary paralegal who he nicknamed CiCi.

"Call my friend CiCi, which happens to be my wife. I'd pick up the phone and I'd say, 'CiCi, what's going on? Nick's house is being watched,'" said Marshburn.

Then Marshburn told Holbert that CiCi would tip them off if an arrest was imminent.

"So she calls and says, 'Oh, he's being indicted by a grand jury. They're fixing to get him,'" Marshburn continued. "So I said, 'Nick, we need to really think about this indictment thing. We need to start really, really concentrating on what happened, what went on.'

"I kind of pressured him. ...I felt like this was it. This was the day. ...It was time to try and get a confession out of him," Marshburn said. "'I'm like, 'OK, Nick. We're gonna go to Froggy Bottoms. We're gonna start this thing over again. We're gonna go from step one all the way through.' ...Soon as I pull up, he jumps out instantly and walks straight to the back."

Marshburn followed Holbert to his campsite about 300 feet behind the bar.

"I wound up picking a branch up ... and while he was standing over there I would ... walk towards him. And I'd simply just snap them. Steady, snap'n," Marshburn demonstrated. "Sorta give him a time limit. ...The clock's ticking."

It was May 13, 2014, more than two years since Kelli Bordeaux had gone missing and Marshburn decided that, for Holbert, time was up.

"So, I walk all the way over ... and I put my hand on his shoulder and said, "Did you do something to Kelli?" And he said, 'Yes,'" Marshburn said, standing at the campsite.

"I said, 'Nick look, it's OK. You might not remember the bad stuff, the middle stuff, but the end is where we need to get to. Nick, I need to know where she is and if you have anything to do with it, I wanna help you and get this heavy burden off your chest,'" Marshburn continued. "'We've got to find her. ...Can you take me to her? Can you lead us to where she's at?' And he said, 'Yes.'"

David Marshburn snuck in a call to Det. Locklear to let him know what was going on. Then Holbert brought him to an isolated spot in the woods just five miles from where Kelli was last seen. They went into the woods to try to find Kelli's makeshift burial site.

"I said, 'Is she on top of the ground? Below the ground?' He's like, 'Man, I can't remember,'" Marshburn said. "So, I finally get my dog out and I have my dog go search. ...My dog kept alert. Something ain't right here."

Marshburn thought his specially-trained cadaver dog, Kaz, had picked up a scent. Marshburn felt he was tantalizingly close, but it was getting dark and he knew he had to stop for the night.

"So, I said, 'Look, it's late. ... Let's go take you home and then we'll come back and pick you up in the morning,'" he told Holbert.

Marshburn was so close to the truth that he forgot about one of the tall tales he'd told Holbert.

"He said, 'I don't wanna go home.' I said, 'What do you mean you don't wanna go home?' 'I'm scared the police are gonna be there,'" Marshburn said of their conversation. "I'm like, 'Oh, yeah' [laughs]. I just had to remind myself. 'Oh, yeah. That's right.'"

Marshburn took Holbert to a nearby motel, paid for him to stay the night, and then went home.

Asked if he had a sleepless night, Marshburn told Roberts, "Oh, yeah. ...I was excited. I knew we were getting to the end of it. ... So, I did have a restless night -- anxious."

To his relief, by daybreak, Holbert was still there and the mystery of what happened to Kelli Bordeaux would soon be solved.

THE CONFESSION

That next morning, an apprehensive David Marshburn, hoping he was close to finding Kelli, headed back to the motel where he'd stashed Nick Holbert -- unsure if he'd even be there; but he was.

"Nick comes out and we all get in the car and this time he's a little bit different," Marshburn told Roberts. "Nick starts laughing and says, 'You know, no wonder nobody can find her. I can't even find her.' You know, he makes a joke about it."

When they reached the site, Marshburn told Holbert to search an area down the path, leaving Marshburn, his assistant, Marsha, and Kaz to investigate.

"The light was shinin' down. It was just in the middle of the woods right here," Marshburn pointed out. In the woods. "Kaz comes in. He lays on the spot. I say, 'Marsha. Go get the pry rod.'"

"I push it in just a little bit and all of a sudden it sinks. It just goes oomph, straight. ... And I say a prayer. I said, 'Baby girl, you're going home. You're going home, baby girl.' And it was -- it was a good feeling," Marshburn said, moved to tears.

"So, after you discovered the shallow grave, did you call Nick over?" Roberts asked.

"Oh, no. We didn't tell him at all. I dug a little bit, found a little piece of jacket, took a picture of it, sent it to Locklear. Then I dug a little bit more, found a leg bone, took a picture of it, sent it to Locklear and I texted him and told him, 'I think we found her,'" Marshburn replied. "All of the sudden my phone rings. ... So I pick up the phone and I'm like, 'Hello?' whispering real quiet and he said, 'Get all your stuff. Get out of the woods.'"

Within minutes, Detective Locklear arrived with other investigators; one was wearing a camera.

"As soon as we got out of the vehicle, our investigative assistant had a body cam on," Det. Locklear said. "And I just asked him. I said, 'As I understand it, you decided to do the right thing?' And he said, 'Yeah.'"

Nick Holbert: OK. -Um, where do want to start from? The very beginning?

Det. Locklear: Well, let's do it like this Nick. I think at this point man, after all this time has passed --things are what they are. OK. I ain't mad with ya. I wasn't mad wit ya back then, I ain't mad with ya now. OK. We're where we're at for a reason. ...There are two sides to every story. Somewhere in the middle is the truth. Tell me your side of it.

In the never-before-seen video, prime suspect Nick Holbert describes, in chilling detail, what happened the night Kelli Bordeaux vanished:


Nick Holbert: I went and picked her up. Went back to the bar. Played pool and drank. Sung karaoke. Everything was goin' good. Then, I reckon, somebody told her about my sex offense thing. I didn't know it. But -- I mean -- that's when she started actin' kinda funny towards me.

It was then investigators learned the motive for Kelli's murder:

Nick Holbert: And when she said she was ready to go home. You know I was talkin' with her and I can't remember exactly what was said, but I know she said to me, "f--- you, f----'n child molester" or something like that and then I just snapped and zoned out and hit her knocked her out. And I stuck her in the car and took her back to where I stayed at.

"'Literally,you're in a misdemeanor posture. You could've -- walked away. ...And we wouldn't be sittin' here today. Why did you ... kidnap her?'" Det. Locklear said of Holbert. "And he didn't have much of an answer for that."

Det. Locklear: ...Did ya'll ever have any sex?

Nick Holbert: No.

Det. Locklear: No sex at all. So I'm not gonna find evidence of that ... OK.

Nick Holbert: Uh-uh. When she woke up, started screamin' and I hit her again. Knocked her out again ... and then I can't really remember what happened in that time period. I know, you know I mean, I know she was dead.

"Within five minutes he told us. He confessed. You know, he just laid it out there for us," Locklear told Roberts.

Nick Holbert: And that morning. I reckon it was 5, 4:30, 5 or something ... and I stuck her in the car and brought her down here.

Det. Locklear: And then what?

Nick Holbert: I pulled in here. I mean I went and I took her over there and buried her.


"He tells them to the T what he's gonna find. You're gonna find a jacket covering her. You're gonna find a bag over her head. You're gonna find her laying in a hole," said Marshburn.

The detective wanted Holbert to lead him to Kelli's remains:

Det. Locklear: Are you OK with goin' back there, Nick?

Nick Holbert: Um--I don't really want to.

Det. Locklear: Well you're OK with it. Mentally you're OK with it.

Nick Holbert: I don't know.

Det. Locklear: Well, you tell me. I mean ... you're a grown man now.

But Holbert refused to face what he had done.

"What was his demeanor?" Roberts asked Det. Locklear.

"At that point, I'd say broken," he replied. "I think it weighed on him. And I think that carryin' that weight for two years had changed him."

So Det. Locklear followed Marshburn, who led investigators to Kelli's makeshift grave:

David Marshburn: Come on down here. We dig down and it's just flesh and a flip flop.

Det. Locklear: OK.

David Marshburn: We saw the white bag. Saw everything he told us and just stopped ... and called you.

Det. Locklear: Alright.

"Once we had that ... I advised him, you know, he's under arrest," Det. Locklear said of Holbert.

As Holbert was being placed into a police car, Marshburn approached him one last time.

"I reach up and pat Nick on the shoulder and I said, 'Man, it's gonna be OK.' Now, I didn't have to do that," he said. "But I wanna play it to the end."

"Did you ever speak to Nick again after his arrest?" Roberts asked Marshburn.

"He called me," he replied, "but ... I didn't answer the phone."

Locklear brought Holbert to police headquarters where he cleared one last mystery: he admitted he was the one who sent that last text from Kelli's cell phone.

Nick Holbert's May 14, 2014 arrest photo
Nick Holbert's May 14, 2014, arrest photo
Cumberland County D.A.'s Office

Police charged Holbert with first-degree murder. Then, Locklear called Kelli's mother.

"I promised her that as soon as I knew - or as soon as we found Kelli, I would immediately call her," he said. "Later that night we talked. ...Her voice cracked. And she didn't know what to say."

As Locklear explained the details to her, Johnna Henson would learn about the crucial role Marshburn played in finding Kelli's body.

"Mr. Locklear had told me that someone from outside was workin' on the case," she said. "I don't think I would know where Kelli was if it wasn't for Mr. David Marshburn."

And as Kelli's murder case moved forward, Henson would finally confront her daughter's killer.

FACING A KILLER

Johnna Henson visits her daughter's grave often.

"I like to take her fresh flowers. That's kind of therapeutic for me. I can't really go out there every day anymore because I'll just cry and cry and cry," she said.

"Do you think there'll ever be a day when you won't feel this pain?" Roberts asked.

"Nope, not until the day I die," she replied.

Fifteen months have passed since Nicholas Holbert was arrested and charged with murdering Kelli Bordeaux and more than three years since she vanished in April 2012.

There will be no trial. Instead, a plea deal has been worked out:

Judge: Do you now personally plead guilty to first-degree kidnapping?

Nick Holbert: Yes, sir.

Judge: Do you now personally plead guilty to first-degree murder?

Nick Holbert: Yes, sir.

Holbert will spend the rest of his life in prison without any chance of parole.

"I spoke with Miss Henson many times about the possibility of a plea," D.A. Billy West said. "We made it clear to Mr. Holbert and his defense team that if he did not take this life without parole plea, we would proceed capitally and we would seek the death penalty in his case."

"It only takes one juror to hold out," Henson said. "So life without parole made more sense to me ... he goes in prison and he stays there. ...He doesn't leave until he dies."

Henson, along with Kelli's brother, Matt and sister, Olivia Cox, attended the sentencing.


"That was pretty hard," Henson said of being in the courtroom. "I just wanted to reach out and grab him. I wanted to do to him what he did to Kelli. I thought that's what he deserved. That would be justice.

"My adrenaline was just pumping," she continued.

And apparently Matt had the same idea.

"...me and the judge just locked eyes and I think he could tell I was like ready to kinda freak out, you know. And then the bailiffs escorted me away," said Matt Henson.

Holbert surprised just about everyone at the sentencing when he tried to apologize to Kelli's family.

"I've thought long and hard on what to say or if I should even say anything at all," he addressed the court. "And I realize there isn't anything I can do or say to ease the pain and suffering that you have endured because of my actions..."

For Olivia Cox, it was far too little, far too late.

"I just wanted him to shut up," she said. "Your words mean nothing."

Johnna Henson addressers her daughter's killer in court
Johnna Henson addressers her daughter's killer in court

Then it was Kelli's mother's turn to talk.

"Can you look at me for a minute," Henson addressed Holbert from the witness stand. "I don't understand how you can take a beautiful young girl for pretty much no reason and beat the life out of her...You took something precious from me... I don't have anything else to say except you can go to hell!"

"She did awesome. I know there are things she wanted to say that she didn't get to say," Cox said of her mother. "But I was really proud of her for having the courage, being able to go up there in front of everyone and be able to say something whether it has an impact on him or not."

"I held back a lot actually. I told him to go to hell," Henson told Roberts. "I don't think he realized what type of person he took away or if he even cared. ...She was a United States soldier."


Shortly after Kelli's body was found, there was a memorial service at Fort Bragg in her honor.

Detective Locklear attended the service.

"I was kinda touched that the family invited us. They wanted us to come out. It was just tough to watch them. They're wishing somebody farewell almost. But they don't want to," he said.

David Marshburn was also invited by the family to attend the memorial service. And for the first time since he began his quest to find Kelli nearly two years before, he met privately with Kelli's mother.

"She told me thank you ... and she wanted to give me something. ...So she gave me these," Marshburn said, holding Kelli's dog tags.

"She gave me these for, I mean, it's probably ... the biggest honor you get really," he told Roberts, holding out the tags.

"You know, it was like, 'Oh, this is the guy that found her.' And I'm like, you know, 'Oh my God, what do you say. I said thank you, thank you, thank you," said Henson.

"If I'd had known the family at the time that I found Kelli in the shape she was in and all, we wouldn't have had a trial. We'd have had it all right there where she was at," said Marshburn.

"I'm not sure I understand what you mean by that," said Roberts.

"I'd have been the judge, jury, and the executioner," Marshburn explained. "Bluntly, I'd have shot him. I'd have killed him."

"When you think of Kelli today, what comes to mind?' Roberts asked.

"Sadness and grief. She could have gave a lot to this country being in the military. And to our society,"

Marshburn replied. "Now she's just a story and a memory."


Under his plea deal, Nicholas Holbert waived all rights to an appeal.

Holbert will receive psychiatric counseling and substance abuse treatment in prison.

David Marshburn is investigating a new missing persons case.