York man is sentenced to life in murder case

A York man will spend the rest of his life in jail in the 1989 death of a retired school teacher after pleading guilty Saturday to murder, burglary and robbery.

Bobby Lee Holmes Jr., 36, pleaded guilty before jury selection was to begin Monday in his third retrial. In 1993, Holmes was sentenced to death but the S.C. Supreme Court overturned the conviction. He was convicted in a trial in 2001 and received the death penalty. That was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. He has been on death row for 15 years.

Retired school teacher Mary Stewart of York was sexually assaulted and beaten in her home Dec. 31, 1989. A doctor testified that the beating left her with brain damage. She died in March 1990.

On Saturday, Holmes received life without parole for murder, Judge Thomas Cooper Jr. said. Holmes also received life without parole for burglary and 15 years for robbery.

“Mary Stewart was an extraordinary individual,” Stewart's grandson, Ken Stewart, said. “My family can continue to move forward and give honor to her legacy of excellence."

Holmes' attorney, Jim Morton, said: “It's been a long 181/2 years, and it will continue to be difficult for the victim's family and for Mr. Holmes and his family. We're glad his life was spared.”

In an unrelated case, Holmes also received 20 years on an assault and battery charge from 1992, when he was in custody.

Holmes was being held at York County Detention Center. Sheriff Bruce Bryant said he will be transferred to a state prison on Monday.

“It is my hope that Bobby Holmes will take this opportunity to use this gift to better himself,” Ken Stewart said. “He has his life back. I hope he uses it well.”