BY RICK PFEIFFER

pfeifferr@gnnewspaper.com

LOCKPORT — With his two young victims crying gently behind him, Joseph Holka pleaded guilty Monday morning in Niagara County Court in Lockport to charges of first-degree rape and second-degree assault.

Reading from the grand jury indictment, handed down against him, Holka admitted to raping a 16-year-old girl and slashing the throat of her 12-year-old brother.

The plea deal will also dispose of an arson charge connected to the attack on the sister and brother, another arson several days before the rape and assault, along with a battery of drug related charges. Holka faces a prison term of 25 to 30 years when he’s sentenced by County Court Judge Peter Broderick on Dec. 13.

“This was the original plea we were offering (Holka),” Assistant District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek said. “We are going to ask for the full 30 year sentence.”

Holka had steadfastly refused to consider a plea deal, but changed his mind as prosecutors and his defense team were about to begin questioning potential jurors for his trial. That trial was expected to get underway this week.

“We’re pleased because this will mean his young victims will not have to relive what happened,” Wojtaszek said. “You could say this was the best possible outcome for the case.”

Holka’s sudden change of heart sent prosecutors scrambling to find the victims and their family, to bring them to court to hear the plea. Wojtaszek said the victims and their parents “signed off” on the deal before Holka took it.

Investigators said Holka entered the victim’s home, just a few doors down from the River Road house he was renting, at about 10 p.m. on March 6. Once inside, investigators said Holka, 21, discovered the teenage girl and her brother were home alone.

During a three-hour ordeal that followed, Holka repeatedly raped the girl while holding a knife to her brother’s throat and forcing him to watch. When the two tried to escape, Holka cut the boy’s throat, lit the house on fire and fled the scene.

The siblings ran down the street and eventually flagged down a motorist, who called 911.

Authorities said Holka also had run-ins with police in Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda, prior to the rape and arson. He was charged with two counts of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and single counts of fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property in early May, as a result of an August 2005 incident in North Tonawanda.

Holka is accused of stealing a prescription pad from the office of a North Tonawanda doctor and forging a script for hydrocodone. He’s also accused of forging other scripts and having friends use them to obtain hydrocodone.

At the time of the River Road attacks, Holka was in North Tonawanda City Court’s Drug Court program on those charges.

Holka, 21, was also charged with second-degree burglary and third-degree arson in a Feb. 26 blaze that destroyed an A-frame log home on River Road, just two doors down from where the rape and arson took place.

He was picked up by Niagara County Sheriff’s Department investigators not long after the sibling attack. Sheriff Thomas Beilein said he could only properly describe the attack “as horrific.”

“I think (the two young victims) were moments away from death,” Beilein said.

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