BENTON — Bobby and Tracy Hewlett admit they are lucky to be alive.
The Benton couple survived an explosion at their home that investigators revealed was not accidental, but purposely planned and one that specifically targeted them. The fact that Bobby, Tracy and their pets all survived uninjured is a “miracle” in their eyes.
The Hewletts, who own and manage Holly Hill Farm Equestrian Center on Old Plain Dealing Road in Benton, had just come back from a trip to Australia Dec. 18 and were pretty tired from the trip. They went to bed early that night, accompanied by their cat and three dogs.
“We both actually kind of woke up about 3 (a.m.) or 3:30 with jet lag. It’s daytime in Australia when it’s nighttime here,” Tracy said. “I looked at my watch, saw what time it was and went back to sleep.”
Tracy says what happened next was beyond belief.
“My eyes were closed, it was pitch black and all of a sudden there was this huge flash of light and we went flying. Bobby flew up out of the bed, over the top of me. I flew out the same side,” she recalled. “We sat on the floor just looking at each other, thinking oh my gosh…what was that. We were covered with glass and shards of wood.”
Even in the darkness, the Hewletts were able to see each other and they were okay. After turning on a light, they started questioning what happened – was it a gas explosion? They grabbed their shoes and coats and ran down to the barn, located just down the driveway from their home to call 9-1-1.
“As we walked out, we just looked at each other and said it was a miracle,” Tracy said. “We literally stopped, looked up and said, thank you Jesus.”
Law enforcement and emergency personnel were dispatched to the scene around 4 a.m. Saturday. Multiple agencies, including the Bossier Sheriff’s Office; Bossier City Fire Department and Bossier City Bomb Squad; Benton Fire District #4; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office; and Federal Bureau of Investigation bomb techs began their investigation at the Hewlett residence.
Investigators determined that the explosion was not accidental, but purposely planned and specifically targeted. After combing through evidence at the scene, it was determined that an explosive device had been placed beneath the main bedroom of the pier-and-beam house.
“It was right under our heads,” Tracy added. “We had divine protection. There’s no doubt in my mind this was a miracle.”
The Hewletts were initially shocked by the news. Tracy questioned, why would anyone want to kill them?
“They asked us if there was anyone who would be capable of this,” she said. “We both looked at each other and said we did know someone who was capable. They went with that and he’s now in jail.”
Authorities arrested Douglas Holley, a 54-year-old maintenance worker at the Holly Hill Farm Equestrian Center, Dec. 20 and charged him with two counts of attempted first degree murder and one of count of manufacturing a bomb.
Holley had been employed at the farm for a few years and lived in a separate home on the property. He was initially charged on weapons charges and an outstanding Caddo warrant charge on Saturday.
As the investigation continued, detectives found some materials to make explosive devices during a search of Holley’s residence and discovered evidence that he had researched bomb-making information. Investigators also found evidence recovered at his residence that was consistent with evidence collected at the explosion site, a house that Holley had access to as a maintenance man.
With this newly-discovered evidence, the additional murder and bomb manufacturing charges were levied. Holley was transported to the Bossier Maximum Security Facility.
Bobby and Tracy said they considered Douglas Holley a friend. They described him as a loner, but he loved animals.
“Everyone knew him. There was never a problem with him,” Tracy said. “Obviously, there was a lot more than we ever imagined and I’m sure we’ll find out more about that. It’s just shocking to us. He ate Christmas Eve dinner with us last year. I think he had Thanksgiving with us, too.”
After his arrest, Tracy went back through texts they had exchanged, looking for clues as to why this possibly happened.
“To think there could be such darkness in him when we didn’t even see it,” Tracy added. “He lived in a house that we owned here. We paid the electricity bill. He put in hours every week and we paid him.”
Bobby, a veterinarian, revealed that several months ago he had taken care of a horse Holley owned.
“The horse had an illness that he was unaware of for two or three days. By the time he called me to take care of the horse, it was terminal,” Bobby said. “I told him we should probably put the horse to sleep, but he said lets try. So I spent 24 hours giving it IV fluids, but the horse became very painful, thrashing and became dangerous going into shock. I said we need to put her to sleep and I did. From that point on, from what I understand, is that he started to harbor ill will towards us because he blamed me for its death. I believe he just went downhill from there.”
Tracy knew Holley was devastated so they buried the horse on the property and they purchased a memorial marker for it. Ironically, they received a call just days before the explosion that the marker was ready to be picked up.
“We’ll still put it out there,” Tracy said. “It’s certainly not the horses’ fault.”
The Hewletts say they plan to move into a spare bedroom in the home once all the utility fixtures are repaired and services are turned back on. They certainly aren’t letting this incident ruin Christmas.
“We’re going to make the best of this Christmas season,” Bobby said. “What a gift just to be here.”
“It wasn’t our time and there’s a reason for that. We’ll be looking for it,” Tracy added.