‘I could’ve dug deeper’: Friends regret not reporting missing Spokane mom sooner

SPOKANE, Wash. — By the time police first learned of Courtney Holden’s disappearance in October, she had already been missing for a year and a half. Now, police are fearing the worst for Holden and her friends are asking themselves why they didn’t step in sooner.

Hindsight is 20-20 for Holden’s soon-to-be sister-in-law Courtney Clay, said knowing what she does now, she can’t help but question herself. Clay has had to grapple with the possibility she might be without Holden on her wedding day, when she marries Holden’s brother Reuben.

“I feel like I could’ve done something for her. I wish I would’ve,” Clay said in an exclusive interview with 4 News Now. “When I look back at it, I feel like I should’ve been there more for her. I did talk to her and I was there for her and I did listen to her, but I could’ve asked her more questions. I could’ve dug deeper.”

Specifically, she said, she could have looked into Holden’s adoptive mother and brother, Judy and Joshua Holden, who have since been arrested in connection to her disappearance. Police found the two nearly 2,000 miles from Spokane in Plano, Texas in December and arrested them for identity theft and custodial interference. According to court documents, Holden’s adoptive family used her debit card to withdraw $600 from her checking account the day she was reported missing. The lead detective on Holden’s case also said the two were hiding her young son from police. Her son was found with the family in Texas and has since been turned over to Child Protective Services.

RELATED: Missing woman’s family arrested in Texas in connection to her disappearance

Police recently sent cadaver dogs to the Holden’s properties, but nothing turned up.

“Why wouldn’t they be protecting Courtney and also questioning where Courtney is? Why would they run all the way to Texas?,” she said. “It just makes me think more that they hurt her and did something to her… I think that the two of them have something to say and they won’t ever say it.”

Court documents detail the abuse Holden endured while she lived with her adoptive mom and brother, who were said to have called her “Cindy,” short for “Cinderella,” since “she was basically expected to be their household servant.”

“I didn’t think that would become a factor into abuse and maybe a murder,” said Clay.

Clay told 4 News Now she knew her friend’s kindness was being taken advantage of, but that Holden didn’t seem to mind and didn’t let on just how serious it was.

“That’s all she’s been around, so she thought it was okay to be treated that way and that it was normal,” Clay said. “But she never fought to get out either, so that’s why I didn’t step forward and say ‘hey, I’m gonna make a call and I’m gonna get you out of this’ because she didn’t bring it to my attention that she was in it that bad.”

Other neighbors told police they had previously seen bruises on Holden, who said her adoptive brother was abusing her.

“If the family knew and if everybody knew exactly the degree to what was happening to Courtney, they would’ve step forward and we would have gotten her help and gotten her out of there,” she added.

Clay told 4 News Now in the months after Holden’s disappearance, Holden’s son was forced to call her by something other than her name.

“Sometimes he would call me Courtney and sometimes he would call me another name that they would give him,” she said. “I questioned it and they said it was because they didn’t want him getting upset that his mom left him.”

When Clay asked why Holden wasn’t around the house, she was told she had run away with her “truck driver boyfriend,” leaving her young son behind. Clay said she knew that had to be a lie, because Holden would never leave her son — and her family would never allow her to leave.

“I should’ve called when I knew. When I saw Courtney last, when I knew that she was being held and isolated,” she said. “I had maybe put it in my mind that maybe Courtney checked herself into a mental institution or something, and that she was getting some help. That’s what I wanted to believe.”

When that belief started to wear off, Clay didn’t know where to start, plus, she had just started dating Reuben and didn’t want to push. Clay also said she was scared to ask the important questions for fear of retaliation — and what she’d find out.

“I feel like Courtney is not here. I feel like there needs to be justice for her and that something needs to come forward — somebody needs to come forward,” Clay said. “We need to find her. Whether it’s her or her body, we need it.”

Holden is a 27-year-old white woman with black hair and brown eyes. She is approximately 5’6″ and 160 pounds. The Major Crimes Unit is asking for anyone with any information on Holden to call Det. Randy Lesser at 509-625-4016 and to reference case number 2019-20191912.