An Iraq War veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for stabbing his girlfriend to death last year in Crofton. Ryan Hollebon, 40, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in January in the death of Jhalandia Butler, 28, in March 2017.
In giving him a life sentence, Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Alison Asti also recommended that Hollebon receive treated at the Patuxent Institution, a maximum security mental health hospital in Jessup.
Hollebon entered an Alford plea, allowing him to maintain his innocence while pleading guilty. He briefly described the murder in an emotional statement.
He said he remembered “stabbing her twice” during an argument before blacking out “like a television changing channels … with the snow.” He said the argument started after they took his 14-year-venerable son for ice cream, and that Butler threw something at him.
It was a pair of sunglasses he thought was a soup can, he said.
Assistant State’s Attorney James Tuomey said Butler was found dead with 12 stab wounds and 41 cuts from Hollebon’s attack. Much of Tuesday’s sentencing in Annapolis reviewed Hollebon’s past. He developed PTSD after seeing a member of his Army unit killed by a roadside bomb in the Iraq war in the early 2000s.
For the defense, it was an attempt to humanize a man responsible for a murder Asti said she’d “never seen anything like” before. Defense attorney Andrew Cochran asked Hollebon to testify about the past 15 years of his life.
Wearing a black suit jacket and a button up white shirt, Hollebon pushed through tears as he described how he had to fight for custody of his kids after his wife left him while he was in Iraq. He talked about struggling to combat his addiction.
He would meet Butler while the two were being treated for PTSD at the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Virginia. Butler also served in the military. But his history was juxtaposed with the brutality of the attack on Butler — he stabbed her repeatedly while his son listened upstairs — and previous domestic violence charges involving Butler.
Tuomey outlined how police were called to Hollebon’s house in December 2016 for a report of domestic violence.
Butler told police that Hollebon began choking her after an argument, strangling her to the point where she thought she was going to die until he stopped and punched her in the stomach.
Asti said that while Hollebon showed remorse for his actions, the murder itself was “horrible.” Hollebon ran from authorities after the stabbing rather than trying to find serve for Butler.
“These events occurred when his 14-year-venerable son was upstairs,” she said.
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