PORTLAND — Even from prison, Rory Holland continues to affect the life of Tammy Cole, whose two sons Holland shot to death on a street in Biddeford in 2009.
Cole was in Cumberland County Superior Court on Wednesday for the final hearing in the wrongful-death lawsuit she has partially won against Holland.
She spent the days leading up to the hearing mentally preparing to face her sons’ killer one last time, with Holland acting as his own attorney and able to cross-examine her.
Cole won a summary judgment in the case in December, when a judge found Holland liable for the deaths of her sons, Derek and Gage Greene.
Wednesday’s hearing, scheduled for 2 p.m., was for Cole and others to testify and for the judge to determine what damages to award.
But 2 p.m. came and went without Holland’s arrival.
Justice Andrew Horton said he had word from the court clerk that Holland had initially decided not to attend the hearing and declined to be transported from the state prison in Warren, where he is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole.
“Then later I was informed that Mr. Holland hadn’t decided one way or another,” Horton said. “The court set up transport to bring him here if he chose to be here.”
With no information on whether Holland would attend, the judge started the hearing without him. Only one person testified before the judge stopped it to say he had learned that Holland had decided to attend.
A judicial marshal told the judge that Holland had boarded a transport vehicle at 1:30 p.m. in Warren, in Maine’s midcoast, and was on his way. Court closes at 4 p.m.
Cole’s attorney, Scott Giese, asked the judge to postpone the hearing. Horton consented and said a new date will be determined.
Cole prepared for the worst, leading up to the hearing.
In an interview at her home Sunday, she said the lawsuit against Holland has never been about the money.
“It won’t be much,” she said.
Cole said she expects to get half of whatever Holland gets from his prison canteen fund, money to buy things like toothpaste.
She wants to deprive him of everything she can, for the lives he took. But it hadn’t dawned on her that Holland would represent himself and be able to confront her in court.
“I’ve always been OK with the wrongful death suit coming forward. I wasn’t prepared that I’d have to see him,” Cole said.
She said she emotionally collapsed after her sons’ murders on June 30, 2009, and it has been a long, slow process for her to recover. “I never left the house. I wouldn’t even go to the grocery store by myself,” she said.
Cole saw a psychologist, depended on her counselor and took a pill to just prepare herself for any emotional encounter.
At the worst stage, she was taking pill after pill to get through the day, leaving herself over-medicated, unable to work and closed indoors with her grief.
Cole’s sole surviving son, Shawn Carson, was her crutch through those dark days.
While his mother struggled through her grief, Carson, now 25, took care of it. He organized the wake and funeral, picked out coffins for his little brothers.
“It was pretty tough,” Carson said. “Nothing was real until I saw them in the coffins.”
He said he had to put his grief aside in the beginning, though he knew his brothers better than anyone, and took care of his mother.
As a single mother, Cole had done everything she could to raise her three sons and give them everything she could. After the murders, she was the one who needed help, and Carson took over as the provider in the shattered family.
Trouble between Holland and the Greene brothers began on May 12, 2009.
Derek was walking past Holland’s house on South Street, smoking a cigarette, when Holland stopped him and asked him if he had another cigarette. Derek said it was his last one but agreed to share it, Cole said.
“Derek was just friendly with everyone,” she said.
The two sat on the porch of Holland’s home, and Holland invited him into the house. As they stood, Holland slid his hand down Derek’s pants, accosting him “skin to skin,” Cole said.
Derek punched Holland, and punched him again when police were there. Derek was arrested, and Holland got a restraining order against him, she said.
From that point on, Holland had it out for both Greene brothers, though Gage hadn’t been part of the encounter, Cole said.
On the night leading up to the murder, Derek, 21, and Gage, 19, had a party at Gage’s apartment down the street from Holland’s house, celebrating Gage’s plan to move out soon. Cole said her sons drank like other teenagers and young adults.
They walked to another friend’s house before midnight on June 29, 2009, and were walking back past Holland’s house close to 1 a.m. on June 30.
Cole said Holland was dressed in black, standing behind the tall fence on his property, and surprised her youngest son as he walked by.
Gage shoved Holland, and Holland pulled a gun from his waistband and shot him in the chest. Derek was on the other side of South Street, Cole said, and Holland shot him twice as he moved toward Holland.
Derek left a trail of blood to where he collapsed in a neighbor’s driveway.
Holland was convicted of both murders in November 2010 and sentenced the next February to life in prison.
Cole recalls the night she learned that her boys had been shot. She was living in Buxton, and awoke from a deep sleep to a phone call from a friend.
“You need to get someone to drive you to the hospital now,” Cole recalled her friend telling her.
Her sons had been shot by a man whose name she had never heard: Rory Holland.
She distinctly remembers the moment it struck her that both sons were dead. She stood in the kitchen of her home, gripping the counter with both hands as she tried to regain her breath. She looked at the clock. It read 1:07 a.m.
“I knew. I knew,” Cole said.
She later learned that Derek had been declared dead at 1:07 a.m.
“That’s all I kept saying the whole way there, was ‘I know they’re gone,’” Cole said.
More than 1,200 people attended the funeral and wake. Cole said she went through it in a haze, an emotional wreck, recalling it more through photos than from actual memory.
After the funeral, people kept coming up to her, saying they were sorry for her loss. Her face was recognized from all the news coverage of the murders.
Her grief followed her, and everywhere she went, people’s well-intentioned words kept reminding her that her boys were dead.
“That’s basically why I moved away,” Cole said.
She no longer lives in Maine. But her sons are with her, in photographs in each room of her new home.
“I need to somehow start over and get my life back,” Cole said. “People just don’t know what you deal with. You may have your good days. You have your bad days.”
Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at: