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Blaze lit, assailants ‘left him for dead’
SoVaNow.com / September 19, 2013Police are continuing to investigate the early Monday morning fire that destroyed the Marshall Avenue home of South Boston restaurant owner Joshua Hollandsworth — who, according to his father, is still recovering from the disaster and the vicious armed assault that preceded it.
“He is just trying to figure out why,” said Jerry Hollandsworth of Scottsburg, who visited the scorched home Wednesday morning to salvage what was left from the blaze. “These are cold-hearted people. They had every intention of killing him. They left him for dead.”
Hollandsworth is recovering at his parents’ home after suffering smoke inhalation and burn wounds to his legs. He also was badly beaten by three men who invaded the residence around midnight Sunday, said his father.
The Happy Oyster on Main, Hollandsworth’s new downtown restaurant, opened for business on Tuesday with the aid of family members who filled in for Hollandsworth and his fiancee, Allison Taylor, who have not returned to work since the fire.
According to Jerry Hollandsworth, his son was working at home Sunday night when two masked, black-clad assailants entered his office, followed moments later by a third man with a gun. After demanding and taking all the cash inside the home — a substantial sum, said Jerry Hollandsworth, that Josh had saved up to plow into the restaurant’s new bar — the assailants beat Hollandsworth, then tied him to a punching bag that was tethered to a heavy workout machine. During the ordeal, the suspect holding the gun kept it pointed at Hollandworth’s head.
As the attackers were leaving, “they poured gas around and lit the house up,” said Jerry Hollandsworth. His son, who continues to struggle to recall the details of the ordeal days later, looked up to see flames spreading across the ceiling of the home.
“They left something that [Josh] remembers smelling like gas,” said his father.
Bound to the punching bag, Hollandsworth was able to stagger out from the middle of the home and reach the front door of the two-story residence. South Boston Police Corporal J.C. Berry, the first officer to reach the scene, found him there and pulled him to safety in the yard next door, according to the father.
Police who questioned Hollandsworth as he lay on the ground immediately declared the fire a crime scene. He was taken by rescue personnel to Halifax Regional Hospital early Monday for treatment of his injuries and released later that day. His father said Hollandsworh is moving around days after the attack but remains in a fog.
Local police and arson investigators with the Virginia State Police gathered at the scene all day Monday, securing possible evidence and pulling charred furnishings and other items out of the home. SBPD Captain B.K. Lovelace indicated it could take months to uncover clues that could result in an arrest.
Police have identified as suspects two African-American men, one described as 6 feet tall and weighing approximately 185 pounds. The second suspect was described as 5’8” and weighing between 160-180 pounds.
South Boston Police Detective Randy Redd, along with State Police arson investigators, is leading the investigation.
According to Jerry Hollandsworth, his son had a sense before the fire broke out that something was amiss in the neighborhood. “They [Josh and Allison] kept thinking that something wasn’t quite right, but they’d come outside and there would be nothing.”
Allison Taylor and a third member of the household, a cousin of Hollandsworth who works at the restaurant, were not home when the attack occurred. They had gone to Gloucester, where Hollandsworth previously operated one of the family’s restaurants, to pick up some possessions over the weekend to bring to South Boston. The two arrived home after the fire had broken out, around the same time rescue workers carried off Josh for treatment.
They had called on the road from Richmond “to say they would be at the house shortly,” said Jerry Hollandsworth. “By the time they got there, they’d taken him to the hospital.”
Before escaping from the home, Hollandsworth managed to free a hand, pick up a weight lying next to the exercise machine and fling it through a window in the hope that someone would hear the racket. “He was hollering but no one heard him.”
Lost in the fire along with most of the possessions of the people living in the home was a pet pit bull, Blue, who was shut inside the sunroom. The pup apparently died of smoke inhalation. Jerry Hollandsworth said he buried Blue on Tuesday, saving the dog collar for his son.
Searching for reasons behind the attack, Hollandsworth said he believed the assailants had carefully planned the home invasion and had been keeping an eye on the residence to take advantage of the best opportunity for the crime. He said other residents of the county have been victimized in random home invasions, and he keeps a gun at his side in case anyone tries to enter his residence.
“I have no remorse for people like that,” he said.
If anyone has information about the crime, contact Detective Redd with South Boston Police Department 434-575-4273 or Crime Line at 434-476-8445.
CommentsBefore the trail goes completely cold, fellow business owners might consider raising funds for a substantial reward to be offered for leads.
- By SoBoSue on 09 / 19 / 13
CommentsThis has all the marks of gang activity. LE in the area better wise up and admit it's here and rapidly getting out of control, though HC/SB police seem to have a better handle on it than Danville & Pittsylvania. Danville's police chief was in denial about gang activity in that city for years, until it became impossible to ignore.
Keep a sharp eye on unfamiliar "walkers" who look out of place in your neighborhood- they'll stroll thru, knock on a door and if no answer they'll kick it in and steal you blind. Happened to me last Friday. I blame the proliferation of pawn shops and "cash-for-gold" businesses in the area for a lot of break-ins and robberies. Smarmy enterprises that aren't regulated nearly enough.
Really sorry this happened to Josh. A shame for someone to move here, invest in our area, and endure this.
- By powerhouse on 09 / 19 / 13
CommentsHow do you know they knocked on the door?
- By curiuos on 09 / 19 / 13
CommentsToo bad he did not here them come in, and had his weapon ready. Wonder what these thugs would have done if they had met him armed with an AR-15 with 30 round mag? To bad he could not have dropped all three right then an there.
- By allpolitical2 on 09 / 19 / 13
CommentsGod speed to the victim. Maybe the good that comes out of this is more people realize that your personal protection and safety is your own responsibility. No offense to law enforcement because everyone understands they cannot be everywhere all of the time but remember, when seconds count the police are only minutes away. http://www.dailypaul.com/299560/ttag-defensive-gun-use-of-the-day-now-do-you-believe-us-edition
- By Exercise your rights on 09 / 19 / 13
Comments"How do you know they knocked on the door?"
How about not starting it, troll? Whatever your issue is with me, leave it at the "door" and quit disrupting otherwise civil responses.
I have a couple friends in LE who have told me the "walker" knock-on-the-door thing is getting common, and usually during the day when people are at work. Since everyone on my normally quiet street is either at work or retired and staying inside during the day, guess what Sherlock? Use your limited powers of deduction.
Maybe they'll knock on yours next and you'll get to spend half a day repairing damage to your door like I did, plus dealing with police reports and insurance companies on top of the damage and loss.
- By powerhouse on 09 / 19 / 13
CommentsThis is my cousin. A real person. A kind person from a wonderful immediate family. Please be civil and respectful. Our family is reading this. And this is a very upsetting turn of events as it is.
- By Stephanie M Milhoan on 09 / 19 / 13
CommentsStephanie, you and Josh have my best wishes in getting thru this and my apologies for the turn the discussion took.
I know well the scars something like this can leave. Last week was 3rd time in 5 years my home has been hit and ransacked and, even with only property loss and damage, you never get over the sense you've been violated. But, as my LE friends have told me, it's everywhere, every day, every neighborhood. Crackheads and gangstas have no conscience about anything and good people pay the price for their maraudings.
I was thinking last week I should ride to SoBo and try The Happy Oyster my next vacation, and I know now I'll try to get there soon. I used to love going in there with my dad to get hot dogs when it was Dickerson's Pool Room. My Mama would have died had she known I ever went in there.
Continued best wishes and prayers as you move past this.
- By powerhouse on 09 / 20 / 13
CommentsOk it was two black men and a third shows up with the gun. How come the police are only looking for two? Something about this sound odd.
- By Sounds Odd on 09 / 21 / 13
CommentsWhat robbers come prepared with a rope, or take the time to look for one? Most robbers would've just shot the victim. And most robbers also don't rob when the homeowner is at home. At 1 am, most people are at home. And the girlfriend and cousin just happened to be away, but showed up directly after it happened? And the neighborhood is so quiet that the next door neighbor didn't even hear anything? But the victim felt there was something wrong with the neighborhood and the assailants were looking for the perfect time to strike. Everyone else says this is a quiet, nice neighborhood. Why this particular house, at this time? Did the victim have any enemies? Most robbers also don't set fires, they just get the hell outta there ASAP. Why did the 3rd assailant show up later with a gun? Are their any fingerprints on the punching bag? I've never known a person to have their house robbed and burned while they were there. These robbers sure went to a lot of trouble.
- By agreewithsoundsodd on 09 / 21 / 13
CommentsI also agree that this case sounds very odd just to hear the story. Inside job.... hummmm....??? Why not check the background of the alleged survivor. Too many things are out of place here. Please forgive my opinion but not everything here is righteous. There is more to this story but it has not surfaced yet....
- By Curious George on 09 / 21 / 13
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