Aunt’s shock at nephew’s horrific murder in US

James Kiernan. Picture: comp
James Kiernan. Picture: comp
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The relatives of an American man who was brutally murdered by a stranger have spoken of their “stunned shock” at being told of the incident.

Helen Kiernan, of Milton Road East near Musselburgh, flew out to Texas yesterday morning with her husband Harry and their youngest daughter to attend the funeral of nephew James Kiernan, who was killed in the vicious attack last month.

We were absolutely stunned – we all just sat there looking at each other and we couldn’t believe it

Helen Kiernan

James, 26, was run over twice, beaten with a tyre iron and stabbed to death by a man he had never met before as he set off on a morning fishing trip with friend Aaron Lord.

The pair had stopped in on a house in Montgomery, Texas, to pick up fishing permits when they got caught up in a domestic dispute between an abused woman who was sheltering in the home and her violent 44-year-old ex-boyfriend, Joel Eric Holder.

After being asked to leave the premises, Holder had complained of a problem with his pick-up truck and James and his friend had gone outside to help get the vehicle started.

But they soon learnt the complaint had been a deadly ruse, with Holder backing up the truck and pretending to leave before slamming his foot down on the accelerator and crashing full force into the two men.

In desperation, James managed to push his friend – who he knew was due to become a father – out of the way before becoming pinned under a tyre. He was then run over again and subjected to a sustained beating with a tyre iron before being stabbed with the tool.

Yesterday, his 61-year-old aunt Helen described the “crazy” moment his extended family in Edinburgh had learnt of the brutal murder from her grief-stricken sister-in-law.

She said: “James pushed his friend out the way because he was expecting a baby soon, and then he got caught under the car. He was then hit with the tyre iron and stabbed. He had no chance. What he did was heroic, but that doesn’t help us because he’s gone.

“We were told that night and we were all just absolutely shocked. We were absolutely stunned – we all just sat there looking at each other and we couldn’t believe it.

“We sat and thought, ‘That can’t be right’. But it was my sister-in-law who phoned us.

“We were in shock and crying. He was 26, quite a young guy. He had his whole life ahead of him. It’s crazy, absolutely crazy. It just beggars belief that somebody could be so vicious to somebody they don’t even know.”

Mrs Kiernan said James, whose dad was from West Calder, had been close to his extended family and “proud of his Scottish roots”, regularly travelling over to Edinburgh to go fishing with his uncles and cousins. And his devastated aunt revealed the scale of the crime had only hit home when she saw the sheriff’s report, detailing the extent of the attack.

“It’s one thing knowing he’s been murdered, and another thing knowing all the details,” she said. “He was a popular guy – there are a lot of people who have left messages on his Facebook.”

A celebration of James Kiernan’s life was set to take place this afternoon at La Torretta Resort in Conroe, Texas.