Man jailed for fatal assault on Auckland teen

Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 28 Feb 2019, 11:31AM
Myron Felise fatally assaulted the 18-year-old Eli Holtz. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Myron Felise fatally assaulted the 18-year-old Eli Holtz. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Man jailed for fatal assault on Auckland teen

Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 28 Feb 2019, 11:31AM

The man who fatally beat teenager Eli Holtz at a central Auckland intersection last January has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

Myron Robert Alf Felise assaulted the 18-year-old after an incident at the intersection of Wellesley St and Queen St early on the morning of Saturday 27 January.

Seconds before the beating Eli had fired a water pistol out of a car window, striking Felise on the back.

The older man believed he had been shot and advanced on Eli.

In November Felise, 30, pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

He was sentenced today by Justice Gerard van Bohemen in the High Court at Auckland.

It is not the first time Felise has been before the courts for his part in a brutal killing.

In 2008 he and six others were charged with murdering Manurewa liquor store owner Navtej Singh during a robbery.

While only one of the group - Anitilea Chan Kee - pulled the trigger, all seven were charged because police said they were party to the killing.

After a high profile trial only Chan Kee was found guilty of murder.

But today Felise stood in the dock unable to avoid his fate - prison.

Kirsten Holtz with a photo of her son Eli Holtz, who was killed by Myron Felise.

Kirsten Holtz with a photo of her son Eli Holtz, who was killed by Myron Felise.

Before Justice van Bohemen delivered the sentence Felise had to listen to victim impact statements from Eli's family.

He showed no emotion, keeping his head down throughout.

His oldest sister Chanelle Armstrong spoke first, addressing the court in te reo to begin.

"It's been a little over a year since we buried my brother… in that year I've had a lot of things I wanted to say to you Myron," she said.

"You landed six punches, six - such small number, and such a heavy consequence.

"With every blow, you took something from me.

"Blow one, you took life… you decided to teach a young boy a lesson, you appointed 
yourself judge, jury and executioner that night and you handed out a life and death sentence."

Armstrong explained that Eli was adopted into her family as a baby.

He was the biological son of her aunt.

"There was never any question about his belonging," she said, referring to him as her comrade.

She said Eli was "an amazing uncle" and would have been an equally amazing father.

"Blow two - you took his future," Armstrong said.

Eli had left school and had enrolled in a performing arts course.

He had a job, had saved for a car and had many plans for his future.

"You took that from him," she told Felise, speaking of her heartbreak at not seeing Eli marry, have children and nurture a family.

"You took that from all of us. Blow three, you made the memories of him finite."

Armstrong spoke of seeing the CCTV footage of the fatal attack.

"You keep beating him, you keep killing him," she cried.

"I walked into the hospital room and I saw my brother lying on a bed… his body was broken beyond repair… he was dying in front of us. Those are the memories you gave to us Myron."

She spoke of the moment Eli died, with a room full of family - each of his mothers taking a hand.

"We watched as he left our world, we cried and our hearts broke," she said.

"I remember seeing him on the bed, his hands going cold and his face losing colour… I 
remember wishing I told him more how beautiful he was and how much I loved him… my baby brother, cold on a bed, being carried away on a bed to a Coroner."

Armstrong said Eli then became "evidence" and Felise had delivered another blow - depriving them of their ability to grieve.

When Eli's body was returned to the family he was covered in scars and bruised.

"We heard as his bones creaked and his body sank… I remember running my hands over his head and feeling the cracks in his skull," she recalled. "Even in death Myron, you continued to take him from us.

"Blow five, you broke a family… those six blows didn't just cost the live of my brother, my whole family now carry a sentence of deep and heavy sadness. Eli should have been here and Eli would have been here if not for you."

Armstrong said her mother and aunt changed after Eli died. She said Eli was her aunt's "whole heart and her everything". He was her only child.

"We will always be different to what we were, forever changed by your six blows.

"Blow six, you changed how I saw the world… it made me ask myself if there were others out there like you Myron."

She said Felise was arrogant and dangerous.

"Six punches. Such a small number, such a heavy cost. Those six punches took my brother's life and his future. Those six punches didn't only break the body of a boy they broke his whole family.

"It is terrifying and heartbreaking to look at the man who killed my baby brother, to see your hands and know those hands have caused immeasurable hurt and sorrow and I wouldn't want to wish this pain on anyone."

Armstrong acknowledged the police, court and Victim Support for their work on the case, and for giving Eli a voice, "even in his death".

Eli's mother Kirsten Holtz was next to read her statement. She said she wrote her statement on the anniversary of Eli's death.

Holtz said she woke up at 3am, 4am and 5am regularly. She later found out 3am Eli was assaulted, 4am he was resuscitated and 5am police knocked on her door.

She was terrified the same violent fate would befall other members of her family. Eli's brutal death had also affected her work.

"Some days I found it difficult to get out of bed," she said. She had to take mortgage holidays so she could pay the bills due to missing so many days off work.

"I often become physically ill, because I miss him," she explained. "It was the nature of his death that cuts us most."

Her other children suffered, her husband cried and spiralled into depression.

"This was intensified as Felise pleaded not guilty and was released on bail," she said.

"We are all collateral victims… through all of this the worst part is the impact of loss. Eli would have been 20 years old this year… we miss all those pinnacle points in his life."

Holtz said instead of buying her son a new suit for his wedding, she had to buy one to bury him in.

"I move between how he looked when he was alive and how he looked when he was dead… he was almost unrecognisable," she said.

"We are a broken family trying to keep it together in amidst this terrible tragedy.

"We will never be the same... the impact of his death will span throughout our lifetime."

Another sister Brooklyn read her statement, supported by her partner.

She found out she was pregnant soon after Eli died and struggled with the fact he would not ever meet her child, or have his own.

She said it was devastating watching her family suffer and "crumble".

"I needed him in my life… every year he won't be there," she said.

"We are missing a vital part of our family and his absence is felt every day - every single day."

'I'm not a mum anymore'

Eli's birth mother was emotional reading her statement to the court.

"Eli was my son, my only son, my only child," she said.

"He was a gentle soul, an emotional boy - always caring and always looking after  everyone else.

"He loved his family and he always put them first."

She said the family were often triggered and had "meltdowns".

"We will never be the same," she explained.

"People have told me that I need to get over it and that makes me angry, I will never get 
over this. Ever.

"Unless you have walked in our shoes, you just don't get it."

She said she hid in her home on Mother's Day.

"Am I still even a mother?" she asked.

The family spent Eli's birthday at the cemetery with him and "didn't bother" with 

The last time she saw Eli alive was New Year's Eve 2017.

That yearly milestone, supposed to be a time to celebrate, was now nothing to her.

"I'm so angry with you Myron, you've stolen my only child," she said.

"He was just coming into his own… I was so proud of him and who he was.

"There are so many things I can't put into words because it's just too hard to think about.

"My biggest fear is that I will start to forget all those things that made Eli Eli.

"I will miss him every day, he is always in my heart… the words 'I am not a mum anymore keep ringing in my head.

"Myron Felise, what you have done has destroyed my life…. We have been dealt a life sentence from you.

"I want you to walk away from today with a pain in your heart… you took away the thing that mattered the most to me.

"You stole that from me… we struggle daily to find any meaning to this crime.

"You got to walk out, and we got a plot - we got a life sentence for a crime you 

"Your face was the last thing my son saw before you took his life, your fists the last thing my son felt before you killed him.

"I want you to remember that Myron Felise… I want you to remember his name."

Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey read a statement from Eli's father Bevan Holtz.

"I don't know why he thought he had the right to beat my son," he said.

"He has deprived my wife and I of any chance of fulfilling our role as parents.

"Life cannot and will not ever be the same for our whanau."

The killer's mother speaks

Felise's mother, one of a large group of family supporting the killer, was also granted permission to read a statement in court.

She said she was "humbled" to speak on behalf of her son and wanted to apologise to the Holtz family for the loss of Eli.

"Mama, papa, matua and whanau - I humbly sit before you today with great regrets… to ask for your forgiveness."

She said Felise was "hurting" and knew he could not take back what he had done but would live forever knowing he had killed Eli.

"Perhaps one day he will use this incident and be an advocate of alcohol abuse," she said.

"I know my son made mistakes in life… his actions that night ended up in a tragedy that 
was far from his intention."

She wished the Holtz family healing and peace.

And, she appealed to Justice van Bohemen to give her son a chance.

Dickey said Felise's attack on Eli was "very serious" and "concerning".

Through much of the beating Eli was unable to defend himself, and unresponsive.

Dickey said the maximum sentence for manslaughter was life in prison and he suggested 
Felise's offending was at a high level.

"This was a sustained and brutal attack," he said.

"It was not justified at any level."

He said it showed Felise's tendency for violence and inability to handle alcohol.

And given his involvement in the Singh murder, Felise was "aware" of the consequences of violence.

"Mr Felise must remain a real risk to the public," Dickey said.

The Crown sought a sentence of 7 years in prison with a minimum non parole period 
applied of at least 50 per cent.

Defence lawyer Maria Pecotic said it was important to consider Felise's background.

She said it was not her client's intention to kill Eli that night.

Earlier he had been friendly, happy and was not aggravated by anything.

That changed when Eli shot him with a water pistol.

Pecotic said Felise believed he had been shot and his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder took over, leading to the beating.

She said the Singh case was not relevant to the death of Eli as he was not the lead 
offender, but acknowledged his previous violent crime.

"This case is a tragedy… a tragedy has occurred not only to the family of Eli Holtz but also the family of Mr Felise… he has extreme remorse.

"This offence will stay with him for the rest of his life… it affects his sleep, it affects everything else… it has had a lasting impact on him.

"He has to learn to live with that… he will be reminded of it every day, it's something that will never leave him."

Pecotic accepted Felise would be jailed but sought a lower starting point than the Crown.

"Mr Felise did not intend to cause serious harm," she said.

Rather, his PTSD coupled with consuming alcohol exacerbated his response to Eli shooting him with the water pistol.

Justice van Bohemen paid tribute to both the Holtz and Felise families for the dignified way they had handled the tragedy.

"None of you could have imagined being in this situation, sadly we are here and we have to deal with the consequence," he said.

"This was a brutal attack fuelled by your consumption of alcohol.

"You have a problem with alcohol, when you drink you drink to the point you become so intoxicated you have no awareness of your actions."

He revealed that the next day Felise could remember hitting Eli but could not recall the severity of the attack.

Justice van Bohemen said Felise had a healthy and happy upbringing and had almost completed his training as a builder.

He has two children from previous relationships and has been married to his wife for four years.

Letters of support attesting to his "good character" and commitment to his family were presented to the court.

Justice van Bohemen said all of that aside, Felise's abuse of alcohol and tendency to deal with issues through violence was a huge concern.

Felise revealed he had been a member of the Bloods gang and had been involved in more than 40 violent incidents in that environment.

"That is truly appalling," said Justice van Bohemen.

He said Felise had also revealed he could drink up to 60 ready-to drink alcoholic beverages at a time.

Justice van Bohemen lambasted him for that and reiterated that Felise had a serious alcohol problem.

After Felise was jailed for his part in Singh's death - robbery - he tried to turn his life around and stop drinking.

But the night he killed Eli he was "off your face drunk".

Justice van Bohemen said Felise drank 10-15 shots that night, 25 RTDs and several beers.

That, the judge said, was unacceptable for a man who had only been out of prison for three years for violent alcohol-related offending.

Justice van Bohemen said he had to hold Felise accountable for the harm he has caused the Holtz family and community.

His reaction to Eli was "senseless and serious".

"No penalty imposed by this court can equate to the loss of Eli," he said.

"One life has been lost, but many more damaged."

Justice van Bohemen said it was "hard to listen" to the Victim Impact Statements and he imagined how hard it would have been for the Holtz family to write them.

He set a sentence starting point of 8 years in prison.

Aggravating factors were the unprovoked, "substantial" and "gratuitous" nature of the assault, the seriousness of the injuries he inflicted on Eli, the fact the teen was vulnerable and unable to defend himself and the fact the attack was directed at his head.

He said it was difficult to identify mitigating factors.

"I have viewed the (CCTV) video tape, it is clear you never felt any threat," he said.

"Your response was unwarranted."

Justice van Bohemen then added time to the sentence - 9 months - for previous offending including aggravated robbery in the Singh case.

"You have a predilection to engage in violent offending under the influence of alcohol," he said.

A discount of 4 months for Felise's remorse was given and another 4 months in the interests of his young children, who Justice van Bohemen said "need" him in their life.

His drunkenness and PTSD did not warrant further discount but he did take time off the sentence for the period Felise spent on electronically monitored bail before sentencing.

Justice van Bohemen sentenced Felise to a total of 7 years in prison.

He ordered the violent killer to serve half of that before he was eligible for parole.