PANAMA CITY - U.S. citizen and former WNC resident William Dathan "Wild Bill" Holbert was sentenced to 47 years in prison by a court in Panama for robbing and killing five other Americans in a Caribbean tourist destination, authorities said Monday.
Holbert’s ex-girlfriend Laura Reese was sentenced to 26 years for her role.
Authorities said Holbert admitted killing five people between 2007 and 2010 in Bocas del Toro province in order to steal their property.
MORE: History and background of the Holbert case here.
Holbert’s lawyer, Claudia Alvarado, suggested an appeal was likely.
Holbert and Reese were arrested while trying to enter Nicaragua from Costa Rica in 2010.
That year, the bodies of four adults and one child were found buried in a patch of jungle at the rear of the couple's remote home.
Holbert killed a U.S. citizen named Mike Brown, his wife and young son in 2007. Authorities have said Brown may have been living under an alias and they don’t know where he was from. In 2010, Holbert killed Cheryl Lynn Hughes, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, who ran a small hotel in Panama, and Bo Icelar, former owner of a gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Holbert and Reese met in Asheville at the Body Shop, a local gym where Holbert worked. He had played football at North Henderson High School. They left Western North Carolina in 2005 after Holbert divorced his wife and filed for bankruptcy.
In Montana, Holbert stole a car and sold it. Back in North Carolina he sold a $200,000 home that he didn’t own. Authorities pursued him across a half dozen states that included a high-speed chase in Wyoming.
He and Reese had been living in Panama under the alias Cortez. They were fleeing a Panamanian investigation when they were arrested in Nicaragua.