After nearly two decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs, the case against Bobby Lee Holmes finally has been resolved. That is likely to come as a relief not only to the family of the victim but also residents of York County who have long hoped to see Holmes' fate settled once and for all.
Holmes had been twice convicted and sentenced to death for fatally beating retired school teacher Mary Stewart on Dec. 31, 1989. But both cases were overturned, once by the S.C. Supreme Court and once by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A third trial was scheduled to begin Monday with jury selection. But at the last minute, Holmes decided to accept a plea agreement that would allow him to plead guilty in return for a life sentence with no chance of parole.
Previous convictions were overturned because of technical legal questions. But prosecutors would have been able to present a strong case in a third trial, including DNA evidence that placed Holmes at the scene of the crime, that could have led to a death penalty.
Holmes, though he still maintained last week that he was too drunk at the time of the assault to recall it, no doubt realized that the only certain way to avoid being executed was to plead guilty. Thankfully, Mary Stewart's family now knows he will remain behind bars the rest of his life.
Those involved in the case and those who have followed it for years can take satisfaction in the fact that the case reached a just conclusion. While some may have preferred that he face lethal injection, a life sentence is appropriately severe.
Bobby Lee Holmes will neither escape justice nor walk the streets as a free man again.