On the morning of November 28, 2006, Holly walked her eldest daughter Ashley to the bus stop to take her to Llano High School where she was a junior. She told Ashley she would return later that afternoon to pick her up and walk her home. Holly’s youngest daughter, Alicia, had plans to sleepover at a friend’s house that night, so it would just be the two of them. Ashley had no idea that was the last day she would see her mother alive.
When Ashley got off the bus that afternoon, Holly wasn't there. At first, Ashley wasn’t too concerned, she figured her mother had gone to visit a friend in the RV park as she often did, and had lost track of time. Ashley walked herself home and called her mother from the landline. Holly’s purse buzzed on the kitchen table, her phone, wallet and keys were inside.
Ashley went to sleep that night with the porch light on. She was sure her mother would be there when she woke up, but she wasn’t. At this point, she panicked and began calling everyone she could think of: neighbours, friends, relatives, even hospitals and county jails. When no one knew where Holly was, Ashley called the police and reported her mother missing.
Residents got together and plastered missing flyers all over Llano County. Detectives searched wooded areas and lakes, interviewed Holly’s friends, colleagues and neighbours, but their only clue came from her own daughter Ashley, the last person to see her alive.
Ashley told detectives she knew who was responsible for her mother’s disappearance: their landlord, Jimmy Wolfenbarger.
At one point in time, Holly and Jimmy were good friends. He would often visit her mobile home where the two would catch up and joke around, as friends do. But, according to Ashley, Jimmy’s behaviour towards her younger sister Alicia got ‘weird.’ Jimmy began to act inappropriately towards Alicia.
When Holly found out about Jimmy’s behaviour, she became furious and told him to stay away from her and her family.
“He overstepped his boundaries as a landlord on multiple occasions. He just didn’t know how to separate the two. He made it very uncomfortable, as a landlord, for even friends and family to come over. Then he just got weird out of nowhere, the last six or seven months before she went missing. We all started avoiding him” — Ashley Simmons
Unfortunately, was no evidence linking JImmy to the mom’s disappearance and eventually, the case went cold.
On July 7, 2009, divers found Holly’s body in a small aluminum boat submerged in Inks Lake, a mere seven minutes from her home in Buchanan Dam. Her body was cemented and weighed down with six hundred pounds of concrete. For the next twelve years, Holly became known as “Lady in the Lake.”
Holly was identified by her dental records. An autopsy showed her cause of death was strangulation. Llano County Police believed her death was personal and that her killer was a frequent guest in her home.
“Something did occur at the house that led us to believe that this was a violent occurrence. We don’t think that she left the house alive.” — Sheriff Bill Blackburn
Holly’s children and the grandchildren she never got a chance to meet were relieved they could finally put her to rest and give her a proper burial, but they would have to wait another long twelve years before they would be able to get her justice.
In 2018, a further investigation revealed that Holly’s killer was suspected to be a middle-aged white male who purchased an aluminum boat as well as a distinctive-looking dog house from a yard sale in Buchanan Dam, Texas, one month before she vanished.
On May 3, 2021, Now-57-year-old Jimmy Wolfenbarger, Holly’s former landlord, was indicted on one count of murder. Nine days later, he turned himself in to the police.
Jimmy posted a $2 million bond and was released shortly after his arrival at the Lubbock County Detention Center. He is scheduled to appear in court and enter a plea on June 10.
After a harrowing, all-consuming 15 years, Holly’s loved ones’ prayers have finally been answered.
“Between the anger and pain, and finally being able to take a breath, we as siblings can finally say we are getting justice for our mother…This has opened a lot of wounds. It has been a long time coming…This was our mother, and we loved her very much. We miss her daily.” — Statement from Justice for Holly Simmons Facebook Page run by Holly’s children