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Man charged in Crookston stabbing: 'I just wanted to protect my sister'

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A Grand Forks man has admitted to stabbing another man outside a Crookston apartment but says he did so while defending himself and his pregnant sister who had just been sexually assaulted at a party.

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"I was just trying to protect my sister," Travis Holt said Wednesday. "The detective told me he would have done the same thing."

Holt, who's being held at the Crookston jail, told the Herald he was outside the apartment having a cigarette at about 5 a.m. Saturday when he heard his 18-year-old sister scream, "Stop!" He went inside and found a man standing in front of a bathroom door that was closed.

Holt, 25, said the man told him, "It's OK, it's OK."

"No, eff that, let me see my sister," Holt replied.

Holt said a second man was standing near the door as well.

"It was just like they were waiting, waiting in line or something," he said and began crying at the thought.

Holt said a third man was in the bathroom with his sister. Eventually, he said, he got to his sister, and they left the apartment. Holt and his sister, who received a ride to the party, started walking. Holt said they were trying to get back to Grand Forks any way possible.

About 60 feet from the apartment building, a gold Impala cut off Holt and his sister, and the three men from inside got out. Holt said the men confronted him: One grabbed his wrist so he couldn't open a folding knife he had in his hand; another repeatedly punched him; the third held his sister. He said the men had a kitchen knife.

Holt said he freed his hand, opened his knife and stabbed one of the men. Then, Holt and his sister got in the Impala and drove off.

According to a criminal complaint charging Holt, he told a Crookston detective a similar story. He also told the detective that while driving back to Grand Forks on U.S. Highway 2, he wiped blood off the knife and threw it out the window. He did not remember where he dumped the knife, the complaint says. "He didn't want to get pulled over with a bloody knife in a stolen car," the complaint reads.

Holt and his sister went to Altru Hospital where authorities did a sexual-assault exam. Even though he knew police would show up, Holt said, he waited at the hospital to support his sister.

"She told me I was her hero," he said, tearing up. "A cop would get a medal for this and here I am, sitting in jail."

Holt said Grand Forks officers detained him at the hospital. He was extradited to Polk County, and his bond was set at $200,000.

Tuesday, Holt pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree assault, second-degree assault and unauthorized use of a vehicle. His next hearing is set for Aug. 2.

"I was in prison before, but I changed my life since then," said Holt, who's married and has a 20-month-old son. "They're telling me I could face 20 years."

He said he's applied for a public defender but has not yet been appointed one.

Investigation

At 5:39 a.m. Saturday, officers responded to a report of a stabbing at 146 Twin Drive in Crookston. An officer found a man on the ground outside the apartment with several people around him, says the complaint against Holt.

The officer noticed blood on the man's clothing and saw blood on the ground beneath him. The complaint says the man was stabbed in the left side of his abdomen and in his armpit. Witnesses told police Holt stabbed the man, the complaint states.

The commotion woke a woman who lives in the building. She told police she looked out the window and saw Holt chasing a man. "She saw the look and expression on the big white guy's face; she knew the big white guy was crazed; she knew something was going to" happen, the complaint reads. Worth noting is that Holt, in the account he gave the Herald, did not mention chasing anyone during the incident.

Paramedics took the stabbing victim to RiverView Hospital in Crookston. The victim's mother told police her son suffered a pierced colon but is expected to recover. She said a surgeon described the wound as "very serious," according to the criminal complaint.

The man Holt stabbed, 29-year-old Bennett Blackbird, told the Herald he had never met Holt before that night. Blackbird said he and his girlfriend brought Holt and his sister to the party.

Holt told the Herald he went to the party, a gathering of people he didn't know, with his sister and two of her friends that he also didn't know. He said he wasn't drunk and that everything had been fine -- people playing cards, listening to music -- until he heard his sister scream.

Blackbird, who was still hospitalized Wednesday evening, said Holt's sister was not sexually assaulted at the party.

"No, that ain't happen," he said when asked about Holt's story.

Why would Holt say his sister was sexually assaulted?

"I don't know. He's a criminal. He's trying to find a way out of it."

Blackbird said Holt's sister had been "hooking up" with a guy at the party throughout the night. He said she had been taking anti-anxiety pills.

"They were together all night till we left," he said. "And then they started getting loud."

Blackbird said Holt became upset after learning that the guy had been hooking up with his sister. Blackbird said Holt stabbed him and stole his car.

Holt's sister

Holt's wife, Amanda, said her husband's sister suffered bruises on her arms and forehead during the assault; she was left traumatized and has since tried to overdose on pills. She was released Tuesday after receiving psychiatric care at Altru Hospital, Amanda Holt said.

Amanda Holt said her husband's sister is about four months pregnant and that her unborn child should be OK.

Crookston Police Chief Tim Motherway said investigators are looking into a report that a sexual assault occurred at the party.

Motherway said police have a suspect, but no arrests have been made. He would not discuss whether more than one man was involved in the alleged sexual assault.

If Holt was defending himself or his sister, the chief said, charges could be dropped.

He said police still need to conduct interviews and did not want to jeopardize the investigation by commenting further.

A message left for Polk County Attorney Greg Widseth was not returned Wednesday.

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