Pastor urges plea deal in son’s death

Brian Eliot Holmes, 33, died of a single gunshot wound on America Street in the early morning of July 18, 2011. Provided

The Rev. Sonny Holmes wants justice, not vengeance, for the killing of his son a year ago today on Charleston’s America Street.

He would prefer that the case not go to trial to spare his wife, Harriet Holmes, the pain.

Their son, Brian Eliot Holmes, 33, an accountant, was shot while sitting in the driver’s seat of his car about 2:45 a.m. He died at the scene.

Holmes, lead pastor of Northwood Baptist Church in North Charleston, said he does not know why his son was in the area at that hour. Brian Holmes was staying with his parents while going on job interviews. Like his father, Brian was a Citadel graduate.

Holmes, 62, has been a minister for 32 years. His son’s violent death has made his faith more intensely personal. “This year has been a confirmation of many of the things that we believe. Our faith is very strong and we think that good can come out of bad,” he said in an interview.

Holmes discussed the one-year anniversary Tuesday on his blog. “We will visit his grave, perhaps recount our favorite Brian stories, maybe even look through the picture drawer. More than anything, though, we want to thank God for him and for the many ways he blessed our lives,” he wrote.

He hopes and prays that the Charleston County Solicitor’s Office will offer a plea deal to Jerell Emmanuel Risher, the man charged with murder in his son’s death. Holmes also prays that Risher will accept the deal. He said that he has prayed with Risher’s mother.

Risher, 21 at the time of the crime, has been indicted for murder and possession of a firearm during commission of a violent crime. Since his arrest, he has been jailed without bond. No plea deal has been offered to him at this point, said Chad Simpson, the prosecuting attorney.

If the case does go to trial, it would not be until next year. If convicted, Risher faces 30 years to life in prison, Simpson said.

Although justice would be served, the court proceedings will not bring Holmes’ son back to him. “Nothing is going to give us a sense of closure,” he said.

Holmes has turned to Scripture and the support of a large church family for consolation.

“We believe we live in a broken world. Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people,” he said. “Our questions now is, ‘What do I get out of this?’ We’re not mad at God. We are not angry at God.”