Family shares memories of daughter lost to violence

Holly Combs loved everybody.

Her mother, Kim Hesse, said the 24-year-old wanted nothing more than for everyone to be happy.

“She didn’t care what your past was, she didn’t care what you were going through,” Hesse said. “She just wanted you to be happy in that moment.”

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April Leimer, left, and Holly Combs were best friends.

The only girl in a group of brothers, Combs became a “big” sister to Fine Petzold, a German exchange student who lived with the family for the first half of 2014.

“I could share everything with her and she would understand me,” Petzold said. “She was a great big sister.”

Out of all of her traits, Combs’ constant laughter is what Hesse and Petzold remember the most.

“Holly laughed all the time; even when it was inappropriate to laugh, that’s when Holly would laugh,” Hesse said. “Then she’d get everyone else laughing.”

Her laughter ended at 10:52 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014.

According to information released by the Amarillo Police Department, the night before, Combs was with her husband of almost seven weeks, William Chet Stewart, 35, and a group of friends at the 6th Street Saloon at 609 S. Independence St.

About 10:35 p.m., police were dispatched to the bar on reports of a stabbing. When they arrived, Stewart was gone and Combs lay on the ground with a knife wound to the neck.

Stewart turned himself in and was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against a family member. Combs survived emergency surgery but later died at the hospital. Stewart was charged with murder.

“They had only been at the saloon for two hours when it happened,” Hesse said.

The two were visiting from Lubbock, where they had moved earlier this year. Combs had called Hesse to ask if they could stay with her for the weekend. Hesse said yes, anticipating the first time she would see her daughter since she had moved to Lubbock four months before.

“I love you, Mom,” Combs said as she ended the call.

The plan was to visit April Leimer, her best friend, and stop by the bar where Leimer was working before heading to her mom’s house.

The bar was a familiar one for Combs; she had worked there before moving to Lubbock and loved it, Hesse said.

“That’s where Holly shined, when she was behind the bar mixing drinks and having fun with everybody,” Hesse said.

Hesse said before the stabbing, Stewart was showing photos from their wedding. Ten minutes later, Combs joined the hundreds of victims of domestic violence who are killed each year in Texas.

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Combs embraces Bellah, the dog she raised from six weeks old.

Hesse said before Combs’ death, they hadn’t noticed that there may have been an issue. Her daughter was a peacemaker, a characteristic that she carried from childhood into adulthood.

“If you had a problem, she would try to take that problem on herself so you could be happy and you wouldn’t have to worry about her,” Hesse said.

But in the days after her death, Hesse said she begin to recall red flags.

“That’s when you really start, “Oh, we probably should have paid more attention to that,” Hesse said.

Hesse said she also learned that about a week before her death, Combs had confessed to her father that there had been some incidents of domestic violence. Her father tried to get her out of the situation but was unsuccessful.

Now, Hesse said she hopes to share her daughter’s story so other people in the same situation will not have the same fate.

“I’ve started a Facebook page for her,” Hesse said.

Make It Your Business is a domestic violence awareness page, Hesse said. Within a day of its creation, Hesse said five or six women she personally knows had shared their own stories. She said she had no idea they were victims.

“That’s what I want the page for,” Hesse said. “I want for people to just be able to tell their story on there. You never know. Somebody is maybe in that situation and may read these stories and say, ‘I’m not the only one. I’m not by myself.’”

There’s another thing Hesse wants people to realize about domestic violence and what happened to her daughter.

“This happened in a public place.” Hesse said. “If it’s going on at home, don’t think it’s not going to happen in public while there’s somebody else around.”

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