Holly Crichton (left) and Sara Oloffson (right) speak to those in attendance at the Dunster Fine Arts School. / MONICA MARCU

Local woman talks domestic violence


“My son shot his father, and killed him,” says Holly Crichton, author of No Way to Run, a story of domestic violence and murder.

“He was charged with first-degree murder. The book explains how things came to that point in time where such a thing could happen,” she says.

Crichton – originally a Valemount resident who now lives in Grande Prairie – spoke at the Dunster Community Hall on Mar. 8, International Women’s Day.

Her book describes her abusive husband, her son’s imprisonment and everything it took to defend him in order to avoid having him sent to prison for 25 years, Crichton says.

As a young woman growing up in Valemount, Crichton describes herself as being “carefree,” coming from a loving and supportive household.

“That’s how I was raised,” says Crichton, noting she wasn’t always a Crichton.

“Those were the rose coloured glasses I saw life through,” she says.

After meeting and marrying her husband — Sandy Crichton — Holly soon learned he was violent.

No relationship is easy, and Holly says as time passed the couple’s relationship became more complex. They had two children — Jason and Mat.

“You develop ties,” says Holly. “I was in a situation where there was no escaping it.”

The couple shared a horse racing business together, which saw Holly as the jockey. She became the main source of income associated with the couple’s

Holly Crichton speaks about domestic violence. / MONICA MARCU

business venture.

“For my husband to keep me working he had to give me some leash to do that,” Holly says.

“But behind the scenes, all the other stuff happened – the violence,” she says. “You wonder what’s best for your children’s welfare, and you wonder what’s the best for everyone’s safety,” she says.

As if Holly and her family’s experience with domestic violence wasn’t enough to endure, the hardships continued to add up.

In 1996 Holly had a fall while racing horses leaving her paralyzed as a paraplegic. Eight years later, in 2004, Crichton’s son — Mat, 21 at the time — was in a car accident, leaving him with brain damage.

“You develop ties. I was in a situation where there was no escaping it,” — Holly Crichton, author of No Way to Run

“It wasn’t his fault,” says Holly. “He wasn’t even driving.”

After her son’s accident, Holly says Sandy became more violent toward Mat than he had been, because Mat was now “damaged goods” in the eyes of his father.

Holly describes Mat as a non-violent individual, and “very easy to get along with,” saying he would always try to avoid confrontation.

But on Sept. 3, 2010, Mat shot Sandy dead.

Holly was away from home, for work, when Mat called to say he had shot his dad.

On the fateful day, Sandy “started going off” on Mat, according to Holly, saying the events escalated quickly. Mat’s father had been trying to run him over with a tractor and chasing him down a road near the family farm, she says.

Copies of Crichton’s book. / MONICA MARCU

“My son just decided he wasn’t going to run away and hide from him,” says Holly, pointing to this moment as the one that things changed forever.

“This is where the brain damage comes in. He wasn’t thinking like a rational adult,” she says.

Mat knew his father wasn’t done with him, according to Holly, so he decided to pick up his pistol for intimidation once his father started in on him again.

Mat was in the family shop loading his gun when Sandy crashed through the door, says Holly, and Sandy immediately saw the gun.

“My son’s vision is damaged from his brain injury,” says Holly. “He went to fire a warning shot… my husband was standing about 40 feet away.

“At some point he had turned, and the bullet hit him right in the spine,” she says.

Sandy died that day, and Mat was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

A friend of Holly’s — a lawyer — became involved instantly, spending the better part of the next year fighting for Mat’s innocence. In the end, Mat ended up serving close to two and a half years in prison — not 25 — by the end of the court proceedings.

“All this bad stuff happens in life, yes, but all these great people jump in to help fix it,” says Crichton. “(My friend) devoted a whole year to saving my boy.”

Now a free man, her son is working to whatever his new reality is going to be, as the family continues to get by the best they can.

In sharing her story, Holly says she hopes perpetrators of violence realize there is a chance they’re going to be called out for it because society doesn’t approve, and she thinks a lot of abusers might care about that.

But the main reason for having discussions, she says, is for people to know they’re not alone.

“I don’t care if it’s men or women because for us it was my two sons and I, so it’s not a gender thing,” says Crichton.

“Anybody living in a situation where they’re being violently (abused) needs to know it clearly isn’t acceptable.”