The family of a 21-year-old Wheatfield man accused of terrorizing a brother and sister two weeks ago blamed a brain injury and painkillers for the legal trouble that has dogged him the last several months.
Joseph S. Holka's family stood behind him in Niagara County Court on Wednesday morning as Holka was arraigned on a 16-count indictment, including felony charges of rape and assault, and saw his bail doubled to $150,000.
Outside the courtroom, family members said Holka's personality changed after he was hit in the head with PVC pipe during a fight last year. Brain surgery and a reliance on painkillers followed, they said.
"This is an outrageous thing to happen, but it was not my son that did that," Holka's mother, Lisa Caldarella, said of the latest charges. "I don't know what to believe.
"He's been on medication since the surgery. He's overdosed on drugs and died on the table. He's been on antidepressants and been drinking. The week before [this happened] he looked lost, like a puppy. He was not the same Joe Joe."
Joseph's father, Douglas, said he had been angry with his son for the past six months. He said his son lived with him for a month last summer, until North Tonawanda police charged them both with stealing a doctor's prescription pad, writing fake prescriptions for hydrocodone, then selling the painkiller.
All felony charges were dropped against Douglas Holka because the evidence did not support them, Assistant District Attorney Peter Wydysh said.
"It wasn't me. It was my son," Douglas Holka said Wednesday.
Charges against the younger Holka in that case are pending.
Assistant District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek said the seven most serious felony counts in the indictment could land Holka in state prison for up to 50 years if he is convicted.
Holka is accused of holding a 12-year-old boy and his 16-year-old sister captive at knifepoint for nearly three hours late March 6 and early March 7, raping the girl and cutting the boy's throat. He's also accused of burning down the house where the other crimes occurred.
The indictment charges four counts of first-degree sexual abuse, four counts of first-degree rape, two counts of first-degree burglary, single counts of first-degree robbery and third-degree arson, two counts of second-degree assault and two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
Holka's father said his son spoke to him from jail a few days. In court Wednesday, Douglas Holka leaned down to kiss his son before Joseph Holka was led back to jail.
Attorney Michael Stuermer of Buffalo is defending Holka. He said it was a little early to talk about the defense strategy, but said the brain surgery "could become an issue."
Tanya Byrd, Holka's 19-year-old fiancee, gave birth to their baby daughter three weeks ago.
"He's not the monster they make him out to be," Byrd said.