Wanda Webb Holloway is a woman from Channelview, Texas, known for attempting to hire a hitman to kill the mother of her daughter's junior high school cheerleading rival. The plan ultimately failed when the man she asked to perform the hit turned her in to the authorities.
In 1991, Holloway's daughter, Shanna, was beaten out for a spot on the Johnson junior high school's cheerleading squad by Amber Heath, age 14. In an attempt to secure a spot for her own daughter, Holloway asked her ex-brother-in-law, Terry Harper, to hire a hitman to kill Verna Heath, Amber's mother. Holloway had an intense desire for her daughter to be a cheerleader. Anne Maier, author of “Mother Love, Deadly Love,” believes that this desire stemmed from Holloway’s Baptist father not permitting cheerleading when she was a child. This idea is backed up by Holloway’s decision to buy Shanna her first cheerleading outfit at the age of 5. A few years later, Holloway’s daughter was given rigorous gymnastic lessons. Shanna, however, now claims that she never desired to be a cheerleader at the time, instead just wishing to please her mother. Key evidence in the case for the prosecution, headed by Mike Anderson, came down to tapes provided by Terry Harper along with his testimony. These tapes revealed the words of Holloway offering her diamond earrings in exchange for never seeing Verna Heath in Channelview again. The defense lawyer, Troy McKinney, argued that Holloway’s ex-husband, Tony Harper, had conspired with his brother to frame Holloway. McKinney pointed to the divorce between Tony Harper and Wanda Holloway in 1980 and an ensuing custody battle over their children. Following a guilty verdict, a mistrial was declared. After this, Holloway hired a new defense lawyer, Jack Zimmerman. Instead of pleading not guilty, as she had done in her first trial, Wanda Holloway admitted to the crime. Zimmerman negotiated a plea deal for Holloway, in which her sentence was reduced from 15 years (this was the punishment before the mistrial was declared of the first sentencing) to 10 years in the second. Holloway wanted Verna Heath killed because she believed that Heath's daughter would be so devastated by her mother's death that she would drop out of the cheerleading team, thereby giving the spot to Shanna. However, unknown to Holloway, Harper had gone straight to the police after Holloway approached him; Holloway was then arrested the next day. Subsequently, Holloway became known as the "Pom-Pom Mom", and her story spawned two TV movies as well as a book.
Holloway, at the age of 37, was convicted of solicitation of capital murder in a 1991 trial and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. However, the conviction was overturned when it was discovered one of the jurors was on probation for a previous conviction of cocaine possession and should have never been allowed to serve on the jury. There was no second trial because Holloway pleaded "no contest" (nolo contendere). On September 9, 1996, the State District Judge, George Godwin, found Wanda Webb Holloway guilty and sentenced her to ten years in prison, with a fine of $10,000. On top of this, a civil court case was settled between Holloway and Verna Heath along with the rest of her family. On October 2, 1994, Holloway agreed to pay a total of $150,000 to the victims. It was decided in court that $70,000 would be given to Verna and her husband, $30,000 to the children of Verna, and $50,000 to cover the legal expenses of the case. She was released on March 1, 1997 after serving six months of her sentence. The judge ordered her to serve the remaining 9.5 years on probation. She was also ordered to complete one thousand hours of community service.
Reenactments made about the incident include:
- The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, a 1993 HBO film which starred Holly Hunter as Wanda Holloway.
- Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story, a 1992 ABC film with Lesley Ann Warren as Wanda Holloway.
- Mother Love, Deadly Love, a novel by Anne Maier written in 1994
- Maier, Anne McDonald (1994). Mother love, deadly love. New York, N.Y.: St. Martin's Paperbacks. ISBN 0312951264.
- Lang, Anne; Mascia, Kristen (February 2012). "The Texas Cheerleader Case: A Daughter's Painful Journey". People Magazine. 8 77. Retrieved 10/04/13. Check date values in:
- Pesce, Carolyn (September 2, 1991). "'Pompon mom' gets 15 years". USA Today.
- Macintyre, Ben (October 7, 1994). "Deadly rivals agree payout". The Times.
- Koiden, Michelle (1 March 1997). "'Cheerleader mom' freed after serving six months". Abilene Reporter-News. Retrieved 26 May 2011.