The Bizarre Case Of The Texas Cheerleader Murder Mom

By Nolan Moore on Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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“We should take mothers in high seas and drown them there, they are as poisonous as lead in the air.” —Philip K. Dick, The Dark Haired Girl

In A Nutshell

Everybody has heard the saying, “Don’t mess with Texas.” But you shouldn’t mess with Texas moms either, especially if they’re crazy. Take Wanda Holloway, for example. When her daughter didn’t make the local cheer squad, she devised a murderous plot to make sure her kid would become a star.

The Whole Bushel

Growing up, Wanda Webb wanted to be a cheerleader. Football is a Texas institution, and Wanda wanted the fame and adoration that came with a pair of pom-poms. Unfortunately, an overbearing Baptist father and a teenage pregnancy crushed her dreams of high school glory. Instead, she got married, had two kids, and eventually divorced her first husband and married a man named C.D. Holloway. On the surface, Wanda seemed like your average Texas housewife . . . only this Lone Star mom had a serious obsession.

Wanda was determined that her daughter Shanna would become the best cheerleader in Channelview, Texas. Wanda signed Shanna up for gymnastics and forced her to practice jumps and backflips constantly. And when she wasn’t coaching her kid, she was buying beautiful clothes and throwing elaborate parties for her. Why? Well, she wanted her daughter to be the most popular girl in junior high because cheerleaders were selected by student vote. Finally, in 1990, Shanna tried out for the eighth-grade squad, but didn’t make the cut. The spot went to Shanna’s neighbor, Amber Heath—and that’s when Wanda snapped.

Consumed with jealousy, Wanda went to her former brother-in-law, a guy named Terry Harper. Terry had a criminal record, so Wanda assumed he probably knew people with a very particular set of skills. In other words, she asked him to hire a hitman to murder Amber Heath’s mom, Verna. Wanda thought with Verna dead, Amber would be too crushed to focus on cheerleading, leaving her position open for Shanna. Only Terry was (thankfully) no fool. Instead of calling up an assassin, he went to the police instead.

Wanting to catch Wanda red-handed, the cops gave Terry a microphone to record their conversations and heard her offer $2,500 to whack Verna Heath. Those recordings came in handy when Wanda was arrested in 1991. The jury found her guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, but while she was sentenced to 15 years behind bars, her verdict was eventually overturned due to a technicality. During her second trial, she pled guilty and only served six months of a 10-year sentence.

While Holloway never achieved her dreams of cheerleading glory, she did become something of a minor celebrity thanks to her crazy murder plot. Her story was turned into two TV movies, one of which starred Holly Hunter as the deranged maniacal mom. As for Wanda herself, today she’s active in her daughter’s life and even helps take care of the grandkids. Let’s hope none of them ever want to be cheerleaders.

Show Me The Proof

People: The Texas Cheerleader Case: A Daughter’s Painful Journey
True Crime: The Texas Cheerleader Murder Mom Wanda Holloway
NY Times: Texas Mother Gets 15 Years In Murder Plot