Belchertown mother says autistic son doesn't belong in jail


A Belchertown mother is fighting to get her 21-year-old autistic son released from jail.

Her son, Zachary Holmes, is accused of stabbing his mother with a knife and then strangling her at their home back in September.

He is being held without bail but his mother says charges should have never been filed in the first place.

She calls her son a caring, compassionate, and loving person.

Jo-Ann Holmes fought back tears as she proudly clasped her son's high school diploma.

"That day was the most amazing and I still cry thinking about it. It was the most amazing day," she said.

Jo-Ann says her now 21-year-old autistic son Zachary was well on his way to finding his independence. He was taking classes at Greenfield Community College and becoming a mentor for people with special needs which is why she can't believe so much has changed these past few months.

"How did I get here? How did this all happen? I just feel lost. I just feel very, very lost."

Jo-Ann says she never pressed charges after the incident and hoped they could work things out as a family.

"It shouldn't be handled in the criminal justice system. I never pressed charges. I never did anything," she said.

Jo-Ann calls her son a "gentle giant" with communications skills similar to a 10-year-old.

"He's being judged for one minute out of his life. What about the 21 years before that?"

Charges are being brought against Zachary by the Northwestern District Attorney's Office.

He is being held at the Hampshire County Jail where he often pens letters to his mom. But Jo-Ann says her son needs to be somewhere he can get help.

"He doesn't belong there," Holmes said.

Western Mass News reached out to the District Attorney's Office for comment.

"We strive in every victim-related case to be mindful of that person's position and input. However, we also have an independent duty to do what we believe is in the best interests of not just the victim, but also the broader public safety," said Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Handel Suhl.

Zachary will be back in court on January 27th for a dangerousness hearing.

Copyright 2016 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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