There isn’t a day that goes by that Warren Holsonback doesn’t think about his daughter.
“Right now it’s kind of a cold case. There isn’t a whole lot going on,” Holsonback said. “Twenty years is a long time.”
But on Monday, the 20th anniversary of Brooke Holsonback’s death, authorities say the homicide case is anything but cold.
Thom Berry, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s public information officer, said the homicide is considered an active and open investigation. But he declined to give details.
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Holsonback, who was a freshman biochemistry major at Clemson University in 1997, was last seen Feb. 19 of that year when she went “mud-bogging” near Seneca with two male Clemson students, according to an Oconee County Sheriff’s Office news release. That night, their vehicle became stuck and Holsonback reportedly left the scene on foot while the other two argued.
Her body was found floating in Lake Hartwell the next day.
Cynthia McCabe, a junior at Clemson and an assistant news editor for The Tiger newspaper at the time, said there were many unanswered questions about the story.
“It was just a series of ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ events,” McCabe said. “It was like everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. I just remember at the time feeling a kind of horror on behalf of her family.”
McCabe, who is now 39 and living in Maryland, said she remembers the shock everyone felt when they learned about the body. Trying to report what was happening, while simultaneously processing Holsonback’s death as a student, was difficult.
“They sent a fax in that a body had been found in Lake Hartwell. You can imagine that hitting a college newsroom — we were like, ‘What the hell?’” McCabe said. “None of us had encountered anything like that in our lifetime. In our capacity as reporters, we knew this was a big deal.”
McCabe said she’s never forgotten Holsonback’s name, and now that she has children of her own it is difficult to imagine what the Holsonback family has gone through.
Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw was 32 when Holsonback was killed. He remembers working 24-hour shifts as a lieutenant, and can recall minute details from the crime scene. He vividly remembers the suffering of Holsonback’s parents.
“When you’re personally involved in these cases, they tend to wear on you. It stays on your mind,” Crenshaw said. “It’s been on our minds for 20 years. We want to give closure to her mother, her father, her family.”
Dean Brown, a SLED retiree who joined the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office in 2014, has been assigned to investigate about a dozen unsolved cases, including Holsonback’s, Crenshaw said. A release from the Sheriff’s Office said the Criminal Investigations Division still is following leads, conducting interviews and re-examining forensic evidence using technology that wasn’t available two decades ago.
Though the Sheriff’s Office declined to disclose any information about certain angles they’re working, Crenshaw did say he’s not giving up on the case any time soon.
“We still think there’s information out there that could help us in solving this case. We believe this case is one of our unsolved cases, but we feel like we have a sense of direction of where to go and who to look for,” Crenshaw said. “So we’re going to keep pressing on and moving forward until we have someone in jail who’s responsible for her death.”