Man with autism accused of attempting to kill mother may take plea deal

  • Zachary Holmes, left, of Belchertown appears at a bail hearing in Superior Court in Northampton in June with his attorney, Alfred Chamberland. Holmes may plead guilty to some, but not all, of the charges he’s facing.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

NORTHAMPTON — The attorney for a man with autism who stands accused of attempting to kill his mother last fall said the 22-year-old may plead guilty in coming weeks to some, but not all, of the charges he’s facing.

Zachary Holmes previously pleaded not guilty in Hampshire Superior Court to attempted murder and armed assault charges.

Prosecutors say Holmes seriously injured his mother, Joann, 54, after choking and stabbing her following a minor dispute in their Belchertown home last September.

Joann, however, remains among her son’s most ardent supporters — repeatedly insisting she never wanted charges brought against Zachary.

The man’s family, who regularly appear in court for his hearings, have said that he is autistic and developmentally delayed, functioning at the cognitive level of a middle-schooler. Throughout his own case, they’ve said he is largely unaware of the circumstances unfolding around him.

Alfred Chamberland, Zachary’s attorney, and Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Jennifer Suhl appeared in court July 6 to offer an update before Judge Richard Carey.

The district attorney’s office came up with a plea deal for Zachary, Chamberland said — about three weeks short of when the case would go to trial.

“The commonwealth made an offer today,” Chamberland said outside the courtroom on July 6. “I need to meet with Zach and his support team, and hopefully we can resolve this case with an agreement.”

Chamberland declined to offer specifics regarding the proposed deal. The attorneys and Zachary will return to court July 25, at which point Zachary would plead guilty if he decides to accept the prosecutor’s offer.

The trial would be set into motion immediately after if Zachary does not accept the deal or if a judge rejects his plea, Carey said. Joann was also present in court July 6 and appeared in good spirits. “We’re getting there,” she said. “Inch by inch. Sometimes, it’s all we can do.”

Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at mmajchrowicz@gazettenet.com.