A faulty warrant, dismissed charge and a family's 'absolute nightmare'

Christopher Lane, the father of Maggie Lane
Christopher Lane, the father of Maggie Lane, speaks to reporters at the Hennepin County Government Center on Oct. 25, 2018.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

A man who admitted selling a fatal dose of heroin to a Twin Cities woman was freed from prison after prosecutors dismissed the drug charge against him. The Hennepin County Attorney's Office says during the investigation, an Eden Prairie detective falsified a search warrant.

More than a year after her death, Christopher Lane says he's still grieving for his daughter, Maggie, and the hearing Thursday was yet another painful moment.

Timothy Martin Holmes, 36, listens to his attorney.
Timothy Martin Holmes listens to his attorney move to withdraw his guilty plea in Hennepin County District Court on Thursday.
Courtesy of Tony Webster

"This has been an absolute nightmare from the night that we discovered her body," Lane said.

On June 16, 2017, Lane found his daughter's body in her bedroom. She was 26 years old. Maggie Lane had just gotten out of rehab a week prior, but relapsed. She'd injected herself with heroin laced with the powerful opioid painkiller fentanyl.

Court documents say Maggie Lane bought the drug from Timothy Martin Holmes, 36, of Minneapolis. But Christopher Lane watched as Hennepin County Judge Fred Karasov ordered Holmes released from custody.

Christopher Lane thought the criminal case against Holmes had been settled in March, when he pleaded guilty to selling heroin. In exchange for that plea, prosecutors dropped a third-degree murder charge. Karasov handed Holmes a six-year sentence.

Prosecutor Mike Radmer.
Prosecutor Mike Radmer describes the search warrant manipulation allegations against an Eden Prairie police detective, agreeing to dismiss charges against Timothy Martin Holmes.
Courtesy of Tony Webster

But then there was a major complication. Two weeks ago the Hennepin County attorney's office said Detective Travis Serafin of the Eden Prairie Police Department falsified a search warrant in the case.

The warrant was valid for Holmes' house, but prosecutors say Serafin faked a similar document for Holmes' car after questions were raised about the vehicle search.

Christopher Lane says he's angry about that, but understands why prosecutors dismissed the case.

"I would just remind the police that there are human lives behind each one of these case numbers," he said. "And that they need to be careful. They need to follow the rule book."

Christopher Lane is not sure what accountability might look like. Prosecutors have asked the McLeod County attorney to review the matter for possible criminal charges against Serafin.

Serafin's attorney Paul Rogosheske said the detective did not deliberately falsify the warrant; it was just a clerical error in the rush to file paperwork.

Timothy Martin Holmes, 36, and his attorney Frederick Goetz
Timothy Martin Holmes and his attorney Fred Goetz listen to a Hennepin County Attorney's Office prosecutor agree to the withdrawal of his guilty plea.
Courtesy of Tony Webster

Rogosheske also said prosecutors should not rely on an internal investigation by Eden Prairie police.

"Why leap before you look? You ought to let somebody who's going to do a thorough investigation with good forensics, with experts in the forensic field, do the right investigation," Rogosheske said.

Holmes' attorney Fred Goetz said his client realizes he got a lucky break and is turning his life around. Goetz added that even though it's hard on the Lane family, ultimately the system worked as it's supposed to.

"We can't have witnesses lying. We can't have police officers lying. When you do that and you put people away based on perjured testimony the whole system falls apart," Goetz said.

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office continues to review at least 70 cases where Serafin was involved. Prosecutors have said they'll likely dismiss as many as 40 where the detective was a critical witness.

Also on Thursday, the county attorney tossed out a cocaine charge against Torrance Gray. The 42-year-old is expected to stay in the Faribault state prison on a separate gun charge.

Serafin remains on paid leave.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.