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Slain Cedar Rapids man, 20, remembered as a loving brother and devoted father

Levi Holten 'didn't deserve what happened to him,' his sister says

Levi Holten, 20, poses for this undated photo. He was shot Nov. 25 in an alley between C and D avenues NE. He died seven
Levi Holten, 20, poses for this undated photo. He was shot Nov. 25 in an alley between C and D avenues NE. He died seven days later. (Photo courtesy of the Holten family.)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A 20-year-old man who was fatally shot Nov. 25 in Cedar Rapids is remembered as a loving brother, a devoted father and a man struggling to pull his life together.

“He was always there for people, even when he couldn’t show up for himself,” Whitney Holten, 18, said of her older brother. “He had his troubles just like anyone else, but he wanted to do better, especially for his daughter. His whole world revolved around that little girl.”

Police said Levi Holten was found shot in an alley just after 5:15 a.m. in the 1500 block between C and D avenues NE.

Officials said Holten suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He was taken to UnityPoint-St. Luke’s Hospital, where he died seven days later. Police said they think Holten was targeted.

So far this year, Cedar Rapids has had six homicide incidents that resulted in seven deaths. Of those, one was because of arson, and the other six were the result of gun violence.

Maria Johnson, a city spokeswoman, said Holten’s death is not included in that tally, because “the medical examiner has not made a determination as to the cause of death.”

Holten was the fourth of nine children, his sister said. He and his siblings grew up in southeast Cedar Rapids. When until the 2008 flood hit, the Holtens were displaced along with many other families.

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“We didn’t really have much growing up, but we were happy kids,” Whitney Holten said.

“And Levi was an amazing brother. He would try to cheer me up when I was sad or help me when I was in need. When I went through a rough patch, and I didn’t want to keep going, Levi carried me when no one else would. He helped me get by when I didn’t want to get by.”

Police have not released much information regarding what happened the morning Holten was shot or the circumstances that led to the shooting. A request for more details Friday was declined.

However, in the days following her brother’s death, Whitney Holten said she’s heard plenty of theories.

“What I’ve heard is that it might have been connected to a robbery,” she said.

Two other people were with her brother that morning, Whitney Holten said, adding that the three might have gotten mixed up in a robbery or a dispute.

“I think my brother was set up,” she said. “And when he got shot, everyone ran off and left him in that alley to die. That’s messed up. He didn’t deserve that.”

Holten’s aunt, Laurie Sprague-Pence, said her nephew was “easily influenced by his peers.”

“He was the smallest of his peers and always felt the need to prove himself,” she told The Gazette in a Facebook message. “He had a hard time resisting what other people wanted him to do.”

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He wanted to fit in and please everyone, his sister said. That, she said, probably is how her brother ended up in that neighborhood and mixed up in something that got him shot.

“I’ve seen my brother do some messed-up things in the past,” she said. “And yes, he has had some problems, but I just don’t see him being involved in something like that unless he was pressured into it.”

That said, Whitney Holten emphasized she knows only what people have told her.

“I wasn’t there,” she said. “And I’m not a detective. and I’m not a psychic. I’m just listening to what other people are saying.”

A search of Iowa Courts Online shows Holten had several run-ins with the law, mostly for misdemeanor crimes or traffic violations. His record shows two assault convictions — one being a felony domestic assault — and a couple of drug possession convictions — one involving prescription drugs, and the other involving methamphetamine.

“Levi wasn’t perfect,” Sprague-Pence said in a Facebook message to The Gazette. “He was only 20 years old. He had goals, and he wanted a better life for his daughter and he was struggling with how to get there.”

But now, all that is left are memories.

“Levi was funny and kind, and he had so much courage,” Whitney Holten said. “He was always trying to top himself. If he achieved one goal, he didn’t stop there, he wanted to top it.”

Growing up, she remembers riding bikes with her brother and turning to him when she needed someone to talk to. He loved fishing, dirt bikes and cars, she said.

But most of all, he loved his family.

“He was in love with being a father to his daughter,” Whitney Holten said. “He loved taking her to parks and out to play and just spending time with her and showing her that Daddy loved her.”

Holten’s death, she said, leaves a huge hole in her family.

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“I miss him like crazy,” she said. “He definitely didn’t deserve what happened to him. No one deserves that.”

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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