Family members describe 14-year-old Arteesha Holt as “loving, joyful, a people person, and very intelligent,” although she had some behavioral problems at school. Natasha Wilson, her aunt, calls her “my twin” and said the young girl came to live with her when things got out of hand at her mother’s house.

It seemed the Booker T. Washington Middle School student was a typical teen until a life-changing night on Aug. 13. According to local police, Holt became an attempted thief and gun-wielding murderer on the 100 block of N. Linwood Ave.

Charging documents state Holt allegedly approached two Hispanic males on the 100 block of N. Linwood Ave., brandished a handgun and announced her intent to rob them. José Coreas and Wilmer Bonilla laughed at the 135-pound girl because of her age. It was at this point, the documents state, that Holt fired the weapon, grazing Bonilla’s head and striking Coreas in the center of the forehead.

Both men were taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital where Bonilla was treated and released. Coreas died Aug. 20 after doctors determined he no longer had any brain activity as a result of his injuries.

Wilson defends her niece’s innocence. “Until she tells me that she did it, I don’t believe it. I don’t allow guns in my home, I don’t even like guns. So for them to say that she got a gun and shot somebody … no, no, no!”

Family members haven’t spoken to Holt since her arrest and they are worried about her physical and emotional well-being. “I really didn’t have too many problems with her. She came home at a reasonable time. She wasn’t in a gang. She wasn’t homeless. She wasn’t lost in the street. She had her own problems that she struggled with in her head, like stress, but she wasn’t pounding the streets,” Wilson said.

According to Wilson, Holt’s mother asked administrators at Booker T. Washington Middle School for help with Holt’s behavioral problems, but her request was denied. “A typical 14-year-old child has their ups and downs. One minute they might be happy; the next minute they might be sad. They told my sister that she could not get an IEP (individualized education program) for Arteesha because she wasn’t challenged academically, she was challenged behaviorally. They turned her down. She didn’t have any help,” said Wilson.

“If the parent puts the request in writing, the school system does need to meet as a team to look at the behavior. Because the behavior may be impacting on the child’s education and therefore, may qualify the child for special education services like a one-to-one aide, tutoring or psychological services. It’s critical, especially if the school system has seen the behaviors,” said Dorie Flynn, executive director of Maryland Association of Nonpublic Special Education Facilities.

According to the Maryland Department of Education, an IEP is a written plan that dictates the level of service children receive in the public school system to help achieve proper academic development. The document is developed by the school and related support service providers after working closely with parents and family members to identify and assess the academic, behavioral and physiological needs of a child.

For Arteesha Holt, the time has passed for interventions and meetings as the middle school student will now face charges as an adult. She has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, armed robbery, possession of a firearm and attempted theft. A Sept. 21 preliminary hearing is scheduled.

Wilson said she was in tears when she heard the news about her niece’s arrest. “I’m still waiting for my niece to walk through the door with a joke or story about her day. This is her life we’re talking about, ” she said. “She’s still 14 years old. We’re not talking about an adult that would be able to handle the pressure. It hurts. A man’s life was lost, but we’re losing a life too.”

 

Melissa Jones

Special to the AFRO