Man charged in killing of his wife, 43; Missing woman's body discovered at BWI lot after confession; She disappeared Jan. 18; Husband undergoing psychiatric evaluation when he was arrested


A 44-year-old Frederick County man was charged with murder yesterday after telling police he had strangled his wife in their home three weeks ago and abandoned her body in a car at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, according to police and court documents.

Donald Wayne Holt, a senior editor for the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, was arrested yesterday morning after directing investigators to the body of his wife, Nancy Adams Holt, 43, who had been missing since Jan. 18, state police said.

When arrested by state police investigators, Holt was at Carroll County General Hospital in Westminster, where he was admitted late last week after asking for a psychiatric evaluation, police said.

Family members enlisted a minister's aid yesterday to tell the Mount Airy woman's three young children of her death. Relatives said they had suspected foul play, but they knew of no marital discord and were surprised to hear of Donald Holt's arrest.

"I knew she was out doing errands that day, so my first thought was carjacking," said Joe Ignatius, Nancy Holt's brother-in-law, at a Sykesville home where the family gathered yesterday with the three children.

The discovery of Nancy Holt's body occurred after a South Carolina woman intervened and Donald Holt disappeared, police said.

State police Capt. Greg Shipley said Donald Holt called the

South Carolina woman, a longtime friend of Nancy Holt, on Jan. 20 to ask if she had seen his wife. The woman called police, who then questioned Holt.

Asked why he had not reported the disappearance of his wife of 15 years, Holt told investigators that marital problems might have prompted her to leave, Shipley said.

On Wednesday, Holt missed a scheduled interview with state police investigators and failed to report to work in Bethesda, Shipley said.

He went to his brother's house in Mount Airy on Thursday, where investigators granted his request to be taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, police said.

Holt told police his wife was strangled in her car in their home's garage and he drove the body to a satellite parking lot near BWI, according to court documents.

Investigators found Nancy Holt's 1995 Buick Regal in the satellite parking area's "green" lot and obtained a search warrant. About 3 a.m. yesterday, they opened the car and found her body on the rear floor covered with a blanket.

Holt held without bond

Shipley said autopsy results are expected today from the state medical examiner in Baltimore. Donald Holt was ordered held without bond at the Frederick County Detention Center on charges of first-degree murder.

His arrest stunned co-workers at the Bethesda-based Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a National Institutes of Health publication.

"Oh, my God. You're kidding," said Holt's supervisor, Julianne Chappell, when told that charging documents showed that the man had confessed. Chappell, chief of the journal's scientific publications branch, said Holt is well-liked, but declined to comment further.

Barnett S. Kramer, editor-in-chief at the journal, said Holt has been working there as a senior editor for at least five years. He did not have details of Holt's background, but said senior editors normally have completed studies for a doctorate. He said they are responsible for reviewing manuscripts for conformity to "scientific reporting style" and for coordinating peer reviews of studies for publication.

"All I can say is I hope he didn't do it," Kramer said. "I hope there's been some horrible mistake."

Victim recalled

Police searched for evidence yesterday at the couple's home, a two-story house with brick and mustard-yellow siding in the 1000 block of Meadowgreen Drive, in an upscale neighborhood on the outskirts of Mount Airy. Nancy Holt's relatives comforted one another at her parents' Sykesville home.

They recalled an outgoing, cheerful woman dedicated to her computer job at the government's Health Care Finance Administration offices in Woodlawn, where she recently worked on eliminating the Year 2000 computer problem.

Family members said she organized Christmas celebrations at Calvary United Methodist Church in Mount Airy, and enjoyed taking her family on camping trips.

Since their father was admitted to the hospital, the couple's children -- 11-year-old twins Robert and Jennifer and 9-year-old Laura -- have been living with their maternal grandparents, family members said.

Pub Date: 2/08/99

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