Suspect in San Francisco socialite slaying pleads guilty

This “horrible monster” will likely die in prison.

Loved ones of a viciously slain San Francisco socialite broke out into sobs Tuesday as her killer pled guilty to murder in court, a deal that packs a 50 years to life prison sentence with no chance to appeal.

Gary Scott Holland, 44, quietly admitted to posing as a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. worker when he beat and stabbed to death 46-year-old publicist Kate Horan in her Russian Hill apartment on Oct. 29, 2010.

Prosecutors said the “animal” was upset that his construction wages were being garnished to pay for child support. So on the day of the killing he spent the rest of his paycheck on crystal methamphetamine and went door-to-door looking to rape any woman.

Holland had knocked on several doors and eventually Horan, who had just returned from vacation in Argentina, answered. He told her he was inspecting a gas leak. What happened next was one of the more disturbing killings in recent memory in The City.

Horan was beaten with a pry bar, a construction tool similar to a small crowbar, and stabbed with a knife, prosecutors said. Her body was found early the next morning when police conducted a welfare check.

With the guilty plea, Holland will be 92 before he is eligible for parole, prosecutors said. He received 25 years to life for the murder and another 25 years for a previous conviction – the attempted murder of his aunt in 1999. Holland served 11 years of a 13 year sentence in that case and was on parole at the time he killed Horan.

Holland will be formally sentenced Dec. 12.

Holland's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Rebecca Young, said the evidence against her client was “overwhelming.”

The “hugely remorseful” Holland broke out in sobs every time they met to discuss the case, Young added.

With the plea, Holland won't have to face the possibility of the death penalty. District Attorney George Gascón said Tuesday that the death penalty was never on the table.

If prosecutors pursued death, “We would be in trial for many years and the family would have to relieve the nightmare again and again,” Gascón said.

Gascón was police chief at the time of Horan's killing and said the case affected him personally. He lashed out that at the suggestion that he held a press conference Tuesday in order to influence voters on Election Day. He called that charge “sick.” Gascón is running to keep his post as The City's top lawyer.

Deborah Garofolo, safety chairperson for Russian Hill Neighbors, said in a statement that residents were shocked by the “randomness and brutality” of the crime, describing Horan as a good neighbor and friend to many.

Horan’s family, including her parents, appeared at the press conference but declined to comment on the case. They sobbed and held each other throughout an emotional morning – particularly when Holland was carted into the courtroom. Holland never spoke to them or looked in their direction.

Neighbor and friend Lynn Jefferson described Horan as a “beautiful spirit, a beautiful woman” who enjoyed taking walks at Crissy Field. She described Holland as a “horrible monster” and said loved ones are at least glad to know he will no longer be a risk to public safety.

Prosecutors at one point alleged Holland was using the fear surrounding the 2009 San Bruno pipeline explosion to prey on residents concerned about possible gas leaks. Holland’s attorney denied that played a part.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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