AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Crushed dreams, heartbreaking end: Marine vet's story turns tragic during Georgia years

Coming Sunday, the AJC investigative team takes a deep look at the life and sad decline of Kisha Holmes, the Marine veteran who investigators say killed her three children and then took her own life in Cobb County in January.

We have some key findings and revelations in that story, including one significant secret that she had been carrying in the months leading up to her death, but the general arc of her life has markings of a familiar American tale. It's one that thousands of Atlantans know well.

She relocated to Georgia and the Metro area five years ago, like many, who come to this place anew, in search of opportunity and a better life for her family. She was a recent college graduate in Virginia and had dreams of enrolling in University of Georgia law school and becoming a lawyer.

At the time, she was a single mother of a young boy. Over the next five years, her dreams of being a lawyer would be dashed and, by the end, her life had spun out of control into a dark place.

At one point, in the early fall of 2013, Holmes herself seemed to recognize it wasn’t working here. She had given birth to a second son and was pregnant with a third child. She suddenly moved back to Virginia where she had support from a close friend or two.

The fathers of her two boys lived there. One told the AJC that his extended family offered Holmes a network of support.

But after a month or two, she abruptly moved back to Georgia and entered a homeless program for female veterans in Sandy Springs by late 2013. She hustled to secure an apartment in Cobb County, in part, because she wanted her children to have a home of their own to spend Christmas.

Just over a year later, that apartment would be the setting for Holmes and her children’s heartbreaking end. A maintenance worker made a grim discovery after entering the family’s Austell apartment on Jan. 27. The bodies of her kids, Justin, 10, Kai, 4, and Faith, 10 months were there.

After she had killed them, Holmes, who was pregnant with her fourth child, hung herself -- a final act in a story that became American tragedy as it unfolded in Georgia over these past five years.

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About the Author

Brad Schrade is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter on the AJC’s investigative team.