Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The real-life 'Hostel' murders

William Holbert

William Holbert
William Holbert

William Dathan Holbert grew up in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. Parents William Stanley Holbert and Karen Yvonne Moore raised him in a pleasant suburban home in Hendersonville, N.C. Young William played football for North Henderson High School. After graduating, he worked as a landscaper, eventually starting his own business in Hendersonville. He got married in 1998 and had three children.

He and his wife divorced six years later. Holbert soon declared bankruptcy and stopped paying child support. His bankruptcy filing listed over $500,000 in assets, but over $700,000 in debts.

Holbert then moved to Wilmington, N.C., where he allegedly enacted a scam that involved selling an Oak Island house for which he'd forged the deed

He started bodybuilding, allegedly taking steroids to fuel his transformation into a mountain of a man.

He became the manager of a gym in Ashville, N.C., in 2004. There he met a new love, Laura Reese. His white-supremacist tattoos made clients and the other employees uncomfortable, though, and he told the gym's owner, Kevin Hoover, that he no longer held those racist beliefs. Holbert complied when Hoover asked him to cover up the tattoos at work. Meanwhile, Holbert was also reportedly running a Forest City storefront called Southern National Patriots which sold merchandise emblazoned with swastikas and confederate flags. 2005 tapes show Holbert ranting about taxes and the need to preserve southern culture.

William Holbert
William Holbert

Hoover told the Associated Press that Holbert bilked him out of $25,000 by writing company checks for personal use. Holbert allegedly told him he thought the checks he wrote were covered by the job as part of his living expenses. Holbert agreed to quit, and Hoover never pressed charges.

Holbert and Reese then moved to northern Cleveland County, near Charlotte. They rented a 6-room house on 54 acres, paying for 6 months rent in cash. Landlord Donna Stephens remembers that Holbert nonchalantly peeled the cash off an even bigger wad of bills in his pocket. He told her he was planning to open a gym of his own. Two months later, Stephens found that they'd trashed the house and disappeared, leaving behind beer bottles, pizza boxes, and racist graffiti. And a strange smell that Stephens would later reflect on and hope wasn't the sign of another murder.

Holbert's Forest City store closed about the same time, and Holbert and Reese seemed to have disappeared.

What happened next earned him a spot on Fox Television's America's Most Wanted.

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