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Ash man faces first-degree murder charge

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By Sam Hickman

BOLIVIA — A 27-year-old Ash man is accused of using the stock of a .410-gauge shotgun to kill a man whose home he had broken into and stolen from in the past.

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Thomas Jason Holland of Babson Road NW is charged with first-degree murder in the Dec. 13 death of 69-year-old Tony Kusta of Ash.

Deputies found Kusta’s body inside his Simmons Road home the afternoon of Dec. 14. A friend who last spoke with Kusta on Dec. 13 asked deputies to check on him, Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Emily Flax said. Kusta lived alone.

Sheriff John Ingram said he did not believe Holland was trying to steal anything from Kusta’s home when Kusta was killed, calling the slaying the result of a “chance encounter.”

“Basically what we know about what happened inside the residence was that an altercation took place between the victim and Mr. Holland,” Ingram said during a Wednesday, Dec. 18, news conference. “And during the course of a struggle between the two, a .410 shotgun that we believe was owned by the victim was discharged inside the residence.”

Preliminary autopsy results show Kusta died of blunt force trauma to the head. Investigators believe Holland forced his way into Kusta’s home and then, during the struggle, struck Kusta in the head with the stock of the shotgun, the sheriff said.

 “It was obvious that a struggle took place,” Ingram said. “It was with great investigative work by our staff and information from the community that led us to the charge.”

Holland was arrested Dec. 15 on multiple charges, including breaking and entering and larceny in several break-ins that occurred throughout December, including one at Kusta’s home. He has been in custody at the Brunswick County Detention Facility since that time.

Holland was charged with felony breaking and entering and larceny Dec. 6 after he was accused of stealing a shotgun, a safe containing $4,000, assorted watches, a class ring and miscellaneous legal documents from Kusta’s home. The stolen property was valued at $4,375, arrest warrants show.

A warrant was issued Dec. 18 for Holland’s arrest on the murder charge.

Ingram said Holland has been “very cooperative” since his incarceration.

The sheriff also said his office is working with the District Attorney’s Office to present the case to a grand jury.

Holland is being held without bond.

Sam Hickman is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or shickman@brunswickbeacon.com.