To understand Wanda Holloway’s dark and desperate story, you have to start with where she came from.
Wanda grew up in Channelview, TX, a town which is known to bring menace and breed hopelessness during the long winter months. And during a very long winter in 1991, Wanda’s problems would finally come to a head.
Born Wanda Webb, she grew up on the south side of I-10, which was known as the rough side of Channelview. Her father was a tester at a concrete plant and her mother worked at the local high school’s cafeteria. She had a pretty normal life, but sadly, Wanda always felt like her peers looked down on her. She always felt bad about herself and her family…
Wanda always wanted “more” than what she grew up with. She likely inherited this kind of self-loathing from her father, Clyde Webb. It was a drive she would someday hope to propel herself beyond struggles her parents faced. The Webbs were a blue collar family, just like everyone else in town, but they always went above and beyond to give their kids anything they wanted. But nothing was ever good enough for Wanda, who turned into a real overachiever…
As a young girl, she took piano lessons and, in high school, she was very enthusiastic and excelled in business courses. “She was very hyper, very active, she always wanted everybody to like her,” said Wanda’s first husband, Tony Harper of her high school days. Unfortunately, Wanda never found the acceptance she wanted so badly.
Wanda desperately wanted to try out for the cheerleading squad or the drill team, but her conservative father’s religious beliefs put an end to her dreams. Her father believed the costumes were too skimpy and called them whorish. When Wanda married her high school sweetheart, Tony, who she had known most of her life, at age 18, other dreams began to slip away as well…
Wanda soon abandoned her dreams in business education because her new husband did not want her to work so they could start a family. One thing Wanda loved about Tony from the start was that he came from a family that was wealthier than her own. His father owned three gas stations and his mother had her own boutique lingerie store in town. “I thought you got married, got a job, had kids, and that was it,” Tony later recalled. “We had a good life; we were going in the right direction.”
Love & Marriage
The Harpers lived in a house on the same street as the rest of Tony’s family and Wanda gave birth to their first child in 1973. She named her son Shane after a movie about a loner and his sister, born four years later, Shanna. While their family and Tony’s business ventures grew, unfortunately, Wanda’s love for her husband perished. In their 1980 divorce, Wanda got the house and most of the family’s belongings, leaving her ex-husband with very little…
It wasn’t long before Wanda remarried. This time, her husband was an older, wealthier man. However, it didn’t last and Wanda decided to try and reconcile with Tony after realizing her mistakes.
When that didn’t work out, she married for the third time. Again, to a wealthier, older man from Channelview named C.D. Holloway. Even though he was twenty years older than Wanda, she liked that he owned his own oil company and insisted the two had been attracted to one another when she was his choirmaster at the Missionary Baptist Church.
People would gossip about C.D.’s airplane and how Wanda Holloway would go on about all of her diamonds and moving to a richer area. However, they always stayed in their modest home and Holloway seemed to have found peace with her wealth.
“She has a very bad craving for money, and she loves to dress the part,” said someone who knew her well. “She was always, always wanting this and wanting that.” And wherever Holloway would go, she was always the very best dressed. In Channelview, that meant she held herself to a much higher esteem above everyone else and rubbed people the wrong way. This eventually led to trouble for her young daughter, Shanna…
Just Like Mom
By the seventh grade, Shanna was just like her mother. She was popular, talented, pretty and always well dressed. She was even elected vice president of her eighth grade class, alongside Amber Heath, a girl who was equal to her in every way, except that she was the star cheerleader.
Although Shanna reportedly told other girls she wished she was friends with Amber since they had so much in common. That could never be possible, thanks to their competitive mothers, who seemed to find a rivalry amongst themselves. Tony remembered Holloway as “a mother who goes 150 percent in everything she does.” Adding, that “Verna is the same caliber woman” about Amber’s mother Verna Heath…
Amber was named friendliest and most spirited in the girls’ class, so Holloway got Shanna a modeling gig at the local mall. Both women sent their 13-year-olds to the best cheerleading program around but it was Amber who had been winning twirling competitions when she was just a toddler. The women had crossed paths many times over the years because of their daughters, but they would never become real friends.
The Top Spot
The trouble all started in 1989, when Holloway sent Shanna to a different school, not realizing that Amber would now be a cheerleading rival. “She couldn’t be a cheerleader, but she could be a cheerleader’s mom,” said Tony. Holloway had felt completely betrayed by Verna’s actions, propelling her daughter into the spotlight and even talked about getting a lawyer when the girls ran against each other to make the squad…
Cheerleader tryouts for Channelview High School began in March 1991, but Holloway worked for months to try to increase her chances of winning. She cozied up to sponsors, but ultimately decided she should try and get someone else disqualified, so Shanna would win. That’s when she found herself calling on her ex-husband’s unlucky brother for some help.
Terry Harper had fallen on hard times over the years and had some undesirable acquaintances, leading Holloway to believe he could help her solve her problem with Shanna’s cheerleading rival and her goodie-two-shoes mother once and for all. Holloway cornered Terry, inquiring about how much he loved his brother and niece and told him she two people “taken care of” and she didn’t care how…
Instead of complying, Terry was appalled and said, “I don’t do anything like that and I don’t know anyone who would do a thirteen-year-old child.” He didn’t hear anything of it again until Christmas Eve, when Shanna relayed the message to call her mother. Terry wondered why Holloway didn’t just let Shanna try out for cheerleading, like every other kid and realized Holloway was going to go through with her plan to kill Verna and possibly her daughter, one way or another.
Terry told his brother, Tony, who directed him to the police. Over the next few weeks, Terry wore a wire to record Holloway haggling from $2,500 to $5,000 a for just one killing of Verna, figuring the brutal murder would leave Amber too distraught to compete, giving Shanna the spot. She was arrested the next day…
In 1991, the tapes served as key evidence when Holloway was convicted of solicitation of capital murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison. However, the revelation of one juror on probation for a drug charge caused a mistrial. On October 2, 1994, Holloway settled in a civil suit for a payment of $150,000 to the Heaths and two years later she plead no contest to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
Holloway received probation after serving six months of her sentence. Today, Shanna Widner is all grown up and says the scandal ruined her high school years, revealing that she became plagued by depression and anxiety from the whole ordeal. Worst of all, Shanna has revealed she never truly wanted to be a cheerleader and worried telling her mother that would hurt their close relationship. Now that she’s a mother herself, Shanna says she doesn’t force her two sons into anything. “I don’t push. Whatever they want to do, we do,” she said.