By Rachel Kytonen
“On the day that I picked up her cell phone and read all those texts, my world shattered. Everything that I had spent 17 years trying to protect was gone. I can’t describe the horror I felt.”
Those words were spoken by the mother of Mark Steven Holm’s victim during sentencing on Thursday, Nov. 17 in 10th District Court in Cambridge.
Holm, the former East Central Minnesota Young Life director, pled guilty Sept. 2 to felony 3rd degree criminal sexual conduct-in a position of authority. The juvenile victim attended the youth group in Cambridge.
Judge Tammi Fredrickson sentenced Holm, 55, to a stay of execution of a 36-month commit to prison with terms and conditions of the stay to include 11 months in Isanti County Jail.
If Holm violates any conditions of his probation he will serve the 36 months in prison.
Holm will be on supervised probation for 10 years following his release from jail, and also has to register as a predatory offender.
Holm was charged Oct. 29, 2010, with three counts of felony 3rd degree criminal sexual conduct. One additional charge of felony 3rd degree criminal sexual conduct, felony 4th degree criminal sexual conduct, and gross misdemeanor possession of obscene materials, were added to a new complaint filed March 31. As a result of the plea agreement, the other five charges against Holm were dismissed.
According to the criminal complaint, the sexual conduct occurred between May 1, 2010, and Oct. 27, 2010, at the 17-year old victim’s residence; at Castaway Camp, a Young Life youth camp; in the Young Life office in Cambridge; and at Holm’s residence in Stanchfield. They had also exchanged photographs via their cellphones with one of those photographs being of Holm naked.
The victim said in the complaint that she and Holm had also discussed running away together as well as committing suicide, with the last option being made to look like an accident. Conversely, the victim said in the complaint she had also tried to end the relationship on several occasions to no avail.
During sentencing, Holm said he realizes the impact of his poor choices.
“Every week I see how this has impacted this community and how I destroyed lives and certainly no one more than [the victim],” Holm said. “But simply saying sorry today seems so trite, but I am, and I hope that today is a day that brings closure for the families and the other members of this community that have been hurt, and that we can truly move on from this and allow people to begin to heal again.”
Although it wasn’t read in the courtroom, the victim provided the court with a statement.
“Because of Homer and how he manipulated me, I have a difficult time trusting men. In fact, I don’t. He pushed me away from my family and my friends,” she wrote. “I lost all sense of right and wrong. At one point, he had so much control over me that he had me thinking that suicide was the only way out for both of us….
“I lost so much innocence that I will never get back. My life will never be the same, and I hope he never has the opportunity to change someone else’s life like he did mine,” she continued.
The victim’s mother said her family will never be the same.
“The last year of our life has been a nightmare,” said the victim’s mother. “It was supposed to be one of the greatest years of [her] life, her senior year. Instead people dropped her as their friend, talked about her behind her back and to her face. She was lost and confused. People accused her of being the problem.
“Mark Holm hid behind Christianity and God and led people to believe that he was this great man. The people that backed him up did the same thing. Thanks to Mark Holm I will never fully trust anyone ever again, especially anyone that calls themselves a Christian. I also believe that all the anger, frustration, mistrust and pain contributed to the dissolution of my marriage. My life will never be the same because of this monster,” she added.
The victim’s mother also explained how she had met Holm to express her concerns with how much time he was spending with her daughter.
“I told him that I was not comfortable with [my daughter] spending all her time with him,” she read. “He told me that made sense and that he was getting her more involved with the female leaders of Young Life. He told me that [my daughter] was a great asset to Young Life because she could reach kids that he couldn’t and that her personality made it easy for kids to talk with her. He looked me straight in the eye and told me that there was nothing inappropriate going on and that I could trust him, and that I should know he had her best interests at heart. He again stated that he would be hooking her up with another female leader. I had no reason not to believe what he was telling me.”
Two of the victim’s brothers also read victim impact statements.
“She would often spend long periods of time by herself with no one to talk to because of the lack of friends she had at that point,” read one of the brothers. “It hurt to see my sister like that. My parents were under a lot of stress with everything that was going on which caused tension in our family. That tension caused us to fight and say hurtful things to each other that we couldn’t take back. I wish none of this had ever happened, but this is reality and this is what we have to deal with.”
The victim’s other brother talked about how he struggles with his faith, and drifted from his friends in church.
“This case has affected me in so many ways,” he read. “When I heard what happened I was crushed. I became so enraged at this man that I had looked up to for years. I struggled with depression and became distant with many of my friends, and to this day I still struggle with being angry at Young Life for what happened. I could not believe that a man who believed in the same God as I do could do such a shameful, terrible thing to my sister.”
The brother also talked about the impacts the case has had on the community.
“This man was a leader in this community,” he read. “People looked up to him everywhere he went. Through the events of this case Mr. Holm has caused so much strife and doubt in this community, especially in my church. This case has affected so many lives and so many peoples’ faith in people as well as God.”
Judge Fredrickson said it’s apparent this case has damaged the community and addressed Holm prior to sentencing.
“This is sad and harmful—untold damage has been done to both families,” Judge Fredrickson said. “You acted selfishly and used your authority as a representative of a ministry to accomplish this criminal act…You have always had excuses for what happened. You are not a victim here. [She] is. Nothing about your job or the work you have done gives you a license to do this act. I hope you understand the wrongfulness of your actions.”