BIDDEFORD, Maine — Rory Holland is known around town for outrageous antics, parading around in unusual outfits and pushing people’s buttons simply to get a rise out of them.
Charming and compassionate one day, he could be antagonistic and confrontational the next.
Many people are scared of him, fearful that his unpredictable behavior might turn violent. And that’s exactly what prosecutors say happened on June 30, 2009, when Holland fatally shot two brothers outside his Biddeford home.
“Everyone’s going to tell you the same thing — they’re not surprised,” said Roland Lawler, who owns a business across the street from Holland’s home and once took out a restraining order against him.
Holland does not deny that he fatally shot 19-year-old Gage Greene and his 21-year-old brother, Derek, in front of his house after the Greenes and some friends passed by at about 1 a.m. after a night of drinking. Holland shot the younger brother in the chest with a handgun after a confrontation and then shot Derek Greene — who had been charged previously with assaulting Holland. The brothers were unarmed.
But Holland claims he feared for his life and fired in self defense. Prosecutors say he intentionally killed the brothers, suggesting he armed himself and stood outside his house in expectation that they might come by.
Holland’s trial, which began last week, is expected to continue at least through this week. It was moved to Bangor after a judge ruled it would be difficult for Holland to get a fair trial in southern Maine.
Holland, 56, is no stranger to the courtroom or to controversy. He has been involved in numerous lawsuits and has faced several criminal charges, including assault, trespassing and contempt of court. He served a two-year sentence for trying to kill his 16-month-old daughter while living in Kansas in the late 1970s.
Around Biddeford, Holland is a distinctive figure, a 6-foot-4 black man in an overwhelmingly white city. A college graduate, he could look at times like a professor with his tie, white shirt and jacket, a pair of glasses and his graying goatee. But it was his eccentric behavior — not his race or appearance — that drew the most attention.
He would dress in unusual outfits, such as an orange robe with a turban on his head or as Charlie Chaplin. He might carry an open umbrella above his head on sunny days or walk a dog on a fishing rod. Other times, he would try to egg people on by videotaping them walking down the street or standing at a bus stop.
Jonathan Knox described a hot-cold relationship with Holland when Knox was a teenager.
“One day he’d be stealing my skateboard and the next day he’d be trying to help me. Something was off,” said Knox, 26. “He loved antagonizing people he knew he could get a rise out of. That’s what it was all about for him.”
Since moving to Biddeford in the 1990s, Holland has become well-known in the working class city. He’s a regular fixture at City Council meetings. Twice he ran for mayor. He was a landlord, but his buildings are empty now.
For years, Holland claimed he was a victim of racism, and sometimes he was.
Racial slurs were painted on a fence that bordered his lawn. On another occasion, a local man paraded in front of Holland’s house wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit.
But people will tell you that Holland spouted disparaging words of his own in describing whites, Jews, Irishmen and others. “He’d walk down the street and call me ‘cracker’ or ‘punk,”’ Knox said.
Holland also has been known for his outbursts. One time, he threw a tenant’s furniture, TV and other belongings from a second-story porch onto a paved driveway because the tenant was late paying his rent, Lawler said.
Two months before the shootings, Holland was charged with terrorizing for allegedly telling his lawyer, who was representing him in a civil dispute with a girlfriend, that he’d “put a bullet” in the lawyer’s head and his girlfriend’s head if things didn’t go his way, according to court documents.
The night of the shootings, Holland barricaded himself in his home for hours until police threw him handcuffs. He then put on the handcuffs, along with a tie, white shirt, jacket and a hat, and surrendered to them.
In Biddeford, residents are keeping up with the proceedings in Penobscot County Superior Court.
Inside Grady’s Radio & Satellite TV shop, a group of men are divided on whether Holland will be convicted. Some say he can’t possibly get off after shooting two unarmed men even if he felt threatened. Others believe Holland will get out of this jam, as he has so many times in the past.
Bill Sexton, whose family owns the store and who has known Holland for years, isn’t buying Holland’s claims of self-defense. Most people around town feel the same way, he said.
“He killed two people,” Sexton said. “Self defense is when two people have a gun and you shoot the other person first.”