Will There Finally Be Justice For Megan McDonald?
College student Megan McDonald was murdered in March 2003. 20 years later, a suspect was finally arrested in connection with her case but released one week later due to a legal error.
At around 1 p.m. on March 15, 2003, a man discovered the body of a young woman in a secluded spot just off Bowser Road in Wallkill, New York. Investigators soon discovered it was the body of 20-year-old SUNY Orange student Megan McDonald. She had been badly beaten and died from blunt force trauma, and the tragedy unfortunately became a cold case.
The mystery started on March 13, which is believed to be Megan’s last full day alive. According to the Justice for Megan website, she worked until around 3 p.m. at American Cafe in the Galleria mall, and she was seen withdrawing cash at her bank about 10 minutes later. She was seen again at 7 p.m. when she drove by a party at Greenway Terrace. She had friends there who invited her to stay, but she decided to hang out with other friends in Middletown. She hung out with those friends from around 7:30 p.m. to midnight watching a Friends marathon and then left, saying she had to get up early for work the next day.
At 12:15 a.m. on March 14, instead of going home, Megan returned to the party at Greenway. Terrace, but she never went inside. Nobody police interviewed knows why she went there, but she was last seen driving away from the party. Fifteen minutes later, she was seen driving into the parking lot of Kensington Manor apartments, and she was followed by someone driving a dark hatchback that had blaring music that could be heard from a distance. The cars drove in a circle in the parking lot twice, then the witness lost track of them.
Nobody ever saw Megan alive again after that. Her body was discovered the next afternoon. USA Today reported that her family laid her to rest with a heart-shaped gravestone in the St. Joseph's Church cemetery in Middletown, New York.
Police conducted a thorough investigation in which they did dozens of interviews and followed over 800 leads in the case. The initial investigators carefully kept custody of the evidence with the insight that forensic tools would advance and perhaps lead to answers.
Megan’s family never gave up seeking justice for her. Although her father, a former NYPD homicide detective, died a few months before she did, her mother and sister sought answers for 20 years. Rewards were offered, but the case went cold.
On April 20, 2023, the New York State Police arrested 42-year-old Edward V. Holley for second degree murder in connection with McDonald’s murder. He would have been in his twenties at the time of the murder. He had been dating Megan, and they broke up shortly before her murder.
In a turn of events that shocked the public, authorities released Holley shortly after his arrest because the law stated that he had to be indicted within six days of his arrest. According to NBC New York, standard protocol wasn’t followed for Orange County criminal cases, and the district attorney’s office didn’t know about the arrest.
NBC New York reported that Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler said, "The family of the victim, and the entire community, deserve to have homicide cases handled in the best way possible to provide the greatest opportunity for offenders to be held accountable."
Hoovler also revealed that the district attorney’s office is prioritizing the investigation and a special prosecutor will oversee the prosecution. The case hasn’t yet gone to a grand jury, but it’s expected to soon.
In the aftermath of Holley’s release, McDonald’s family released a statement through their lawyer John P. Beatty which was posted on the Justice for Megan website. They said, "Our family is disappointed. However, his temporary release was expected. After patiently waiting for over 20 years, we are confident that the police have arrested the right person - Edward Holley. The process may not be easy or follow our preferred path, but we will not rest until justice is secured for Megan."
Beatty added, “My office will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the prosecution of Edward Holley now proceeds expeditiously, professionally, and ethically. We remain committed to seeking justice for Megan and holding those responsible accountable for their actions.”