Dateline   |  September 27, 2013

Toxic, Part 9

Holly’s cool and calm demeanor takes a 180 turn when prosecutors call an ex-boyfriend – a convicted felon - to testify against her.    Was she afraid of what he might say, or what he did to her?

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> narrator: way up on the 22 and floor of the criminal courts building in downtown cleveland , holly mcfeature sat down a hailstorm of allegations on her character and motivation. for the most part, she listened politely, turned occasionally to smile at her sister or share a word of encouragement. then the announcement was made.

>> at this time, we have jameson kennedy .

>> narrator: at those words jameson kennedy , holly went into a kind of shock. even before kennedy walked into the courtroom, tears and something in her seemed to crumble. the tears became racking sobs as if she in full blown terror or panic simply could not go on. all this happened as the attorneys were at the bench conferring with judge ryan corrigan . holly broke down and it all happened in front of the jury. mark podalak was not moved. in fact he was disgusted.

>> where was that emotion during the funeral? where was that emotion when your lover was dying in the hospital? yet a guy that you hadn't seen in years steps into the courtroom and you have an emotional breakdown? that's courtroom drama in my opinion.

>> narrator: was he afraid of the man? or was she afraid of what he had to say? the whole business was highly unusual. holly was allowed to leave the courtroom while kennedy testified.

>> how do you know holly mcfeature?

>> i originally met her at a bar she worked at, the dirty dog.

>> narrator: kennedy was the man that holly dated a year or so after matt's death. was it wise to call him as a prosecution witness? the man had eight felony convictions under his belt. here he is, central witness against holly .

>> he's a alcoholic, he's a drug addict and he wants something from your guys. so he'll say whatever you want ?

>> he didn't want anything in exchange for coming into court and saying what he had to say. he knew he was going to be in prison for quite a while and nothing he said in court was going to change that.

>> narrator: it was september 26, 2008 , two years after matt died. kennedy was on probation, he told the jury, when holly stopped by the law office where a kindly defense attorney had given him a job and a place to sleep. they shared a bottle of wine, ate some take out.

>> we both were a little bit tipsy. after drinking, we ended up having sex and after the sex things got emotional. she started crying.

>> what did she say?

>> she made some remarks that she wanted it all to go away. she wanted to move out of cleveland. she was regretful for what had taken place.

>> narrator: regret? about what? kennedy told the jury that he pushed holly to tell him more.

>> but she just told me at that time that she was sorry for what she had done.

>> what had she done?

>> on her words, was that she had put something in his drink.

>> what had she put inside of his drink?

>> she didn't tell me.

>> did she say what happened to him after putting something inside the drink?

>> that he had gotten sick and passed away .

>> narrator: it was quite simply, stunning. but, big but, was it true? could the jury really take the word of this eight-time convicted felon? yes, said the prosecution, because of this.

>> did you tell anyone about what holly mcfeature told you about putting something in his drink?

>> yes.

>> who did you tell?

>> my attorney.

>> narrator: well, not exactly that said the attorney in question, who testified that kennedy asked him in a cryptic sort of way what he should do if he knew about a murder. he didn't name holly or any particular murder.

>> as an officer of the court , did you provide him with any guidance?

>> i told him if he had information of that nature, that he had to inform whomever about this supposed situation.

>> but kennedy didn't tell authorities anything. then. not until he was sitting in a jail cell under arrest for assaulting those cops. did he hope police would go easy on him if he told them something they wanted to hear? sergeant quinn told the jury he believed kennedy 's story because he knew details only somebody close to the crime would know.

>> there was no mention in the media anywhere. where did it come from?

>> the fact that this was the one witness who we could bring forward to the jury saying i heard holly mcfeature confess to putting something in matthew podalak's drink, it was so important it couldn't not go to the jury.

>> narrator: and with that, the prosecution concluded its case of circumstantial evidence . but there was a giant void in the room. a big empty hole where the hard evidence usually goes. what would the defense make of that?