Karlie Pearce-Stevenson, 20, and Khandalyce Pearce, 2, were a mother and daughter who were murdered separately in December 2008 in the southern and eastern regions of Australia. Their remains were discovered five years apart and approximately 680 miles from each other.
The Angel of Belanglo
In the later part of 2008, Karlie Pearce-Stevenson left her hometown of Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia to look for work; Her two-year-old daughter, Khandalyce, was traveling with her. This was recorded as the last time that her family physically saw either of them. Officials confirmed that she had been pulled over for a traffic stop on November 8, 2008, on the Stuart Highway just outside of Coober Pedy and then again in December 2008 in Charnwood, a suburb of Canberra.
Karlie’s mother filed a missing person report on September 4, 2009, but it was closed just a month later on October 9, 2009, after she was reassured (via text messages from Karlie’s phone) that Karlie was “safe and well but did not want family contact at that time.” Investigators believe that Karlie was murdered on December 14 or 15, 2008. Her body was discovered in the Belanglo State Forest in New South Wales on August 10, 2010, by a couple of trail bike riders. According to the official medical examiner’s report, her cause of death was classified as a homicide due to a broken neck. Investigators could not identify the remains, so she became known as “The Angel of Belanglo” due to the angel graphics that were printed on her t-shirt.
The Body in the Suitcase
On July 15, 2015, a large suitcase was discovered on the dirt shoulder of the Karhooda Highway in Mallee County, South Australia. The suitcase had actually been noticed a shortly before by local residents but was thought to have fallen off a vehicle traveling through the area. In a separate occurrence,a few weeks prior, a nicely dressed man had been spotted by local residents as he walked through the area carrying a suitcase. It was thought that he was simply traveling on foot down the popular truck route.
According to a report from news outlets, when they discovered suitcase was opened, the partially preserved remains of a small child were discovered along with an entire wardrobe of female toddler clothing, a pair of men’s boxer shorts, and a small patchwork quilt. It was noted that the child had fair-colored hair. The official cause of death was suffocation. The police were quoted as saying that the child died “a violent death under terrible circumstances.”
The discovery was widely reported across Australia. Police shared photos of some of the clothing with the public in hopes that something would be recognized. Members of the public carried out their own private internet investigations, including identifying articles of clothing (in the suitcase) by the manufacturer. Ultimately, the small quilt was recognized by a CrimeStoppers caller who had telephoned in a tip in October 2015. The caller had stated that the quilt looked like a quilt that a grandmother had made for her granddaughter, Khandalyce Pearce of Alice Springs, AU. A DNA comparison was conducted between the remains and a blood sample that had been taken from Khandalyce at birth. The remains were confirmed to be Khandalyce Pearce. Once confirmed, her DNA was compared to other cases across Australia and a link was confirmed between the two-year-old and The Angel of Belanglo, a murder victim that had been discovered five years prior and approximately 680 miles to the east.
As part of their investigation, police began looking for possible suspects in Karlie’s background. Suspicious activity was found showing her cell phone in use until mid-2011, including random “proof of life” types of texts messages to her family, and her bank accounts were accessed into 2012. In total, over $90,000 was stolen through identity theft from 2008 to 2012. A woman in a wheelchair (accompanied by a man) was captured on a security camera at Karlie’s credit union and Centrelink office, a government-sponsored program that helps citizens who are experiencing financial hardship. It was discovered that the woman, Hazel Passmore, was not only impersonating Karlie, but was also the ex-girlfriend of a man named Daniel James Holdom, the man identified in the security footage. The couple had been in a car accident in September 2008, in which two of Passmore’s children had been killed and she was forced to have her leg amputated. The investigation also revealed that Passmore knew young Khandalyce as she had posted (to her social media) pictures of the young girl with her own children at a car show months before the accident. Despite her involvement in identity theft, no charges were ever filed against Hazel Passmore.
Police further revealed that Holdom had been in a short relationship with Pearce-Stevenson directly before her murder. Through investigating Holdom’s cell phone records, police discovered a ping signal in the area where Karlie had been found at Balango State Forest in December 2008, the time and place of her death.
Daniel James Holdom
On October 28, 2015, Daniel Holdom, 41, was arrested in Cessnock, New South Wales for the murder of Karlie Pearce-Stevenson. On December 15, 2015, he was arrested for the murder of two-year-old Khandalyce Pearce. He was not granted bail. His trial was postponed many times which allowed police to further build their case. During his time incarcerated while awaiting trial, police learned that he had told a (privately) identified person, the story of the mother and daughter’s deaths. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that during court proceedings, the true details of the murders were recounted and are as follows:
Daniel Holdom confessed how he had crushed Karlie’s windpipe by stomping on her throat. Once she was dead, he then violated her body with different objects and took “trophy photographs” before burying her in the woods of Balango State Forest. After he left the crime scene, he stopped by a grocery store and purchased trash bags, duct tape, and anti-bacterial wipes. He then proceeded to pick up Khandalyce from her care center at the ACT, stating that he was going to drive the child to her grandmother’s home. He drove her to a motel room near Narrandera where he suffocated the toddler using duct tape, dishcloths, a nappy (disposable diaper), and a towel from the motel. Holdom placed Pearce in the suitcase and traveled to the spot where he left her on the side of the road. Four days had passed between the time of Karlie’s murder and her daughter’s murder. A police fact sheet stated that there was a “sexual motive in the murder” of the young girl. Authorities could not prove any sexual behavior due to the state of the remains after 7 years.
Police found a notebook among Holdom’s possessions that listed many children’s names, ages, and notations using the words “consent”, “forced”, or “rape”. During court proceedings, Crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi stated the murders were a “thrill killing” and “motivated by many factors, including to gain access to her young daughter Khandalyce, in whom he had already expressed a sexual interest, and to financial gain by gaining access to the young mother’s welfare benefits and her financial accounts.” It was also reported further that Holdom had a “prior history of violence against women and an interest in sexual violence toward children.”
Despite written statements from Karlie’s father (Khandalyce’s grandfather) requesting the death sentence, Holdom was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole on November 30, 2018. This was because New South Wales had abolished the death sentence for murder in 1955.
Karlie Pearce-Stevenson and her daughter Khandalyce Pearce were both laid to rest in their hometown of Alice Springs, Australia.