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From the moment Michael Holmes saw his tiny, struggling daughter, he knew he wouldn't be able to keep her.

That insight - coming within hours of his wife's murder - must have been a staggering premonition. It became reality Wednesday when little Michelle Anna Holmes died at home in her sleep, 26 months after her mother was murdered in a Kearns video store.Utahns remember Anna Holmes' murder as a senseless killing even the killer couldn't explain. On April 22, 1988, Anna, eight-months pregnant, was gunned down in the Video Voyager after taking her three daughters, ages 11, 9 and 7, there to rent a video for a slumber party.

Charles Kenneth McCovey was convicted of second-degree murder for Anna's death. He is serving three consecutive five-to-life sentences in the Utah State Prison for murder and robbery.

McCovey entered the Video Voyager shortly after the Holmes family, intending

to rob it. He rounded up all of the customers and, before he left, shot Anna in the back of the head. He said in court that his gun went off accidentally.

The dying mother was flown to the University of Utah Hospital where tiny Michelle was delivered by Caesarean section moments before Anna died.

Michael was away on a overnight camping trip with his Boy Scout troop when Anna was shot. When he reached the hospital, she was gone. He didn't see Michelle until the following morning.

"From the first time I saw her I knew she wouldn't be with us very long," he told the Deseret News Thursday.

The little girl was the unseen victim of her mother's sensational murder. Early hopes that Michelle would grow up to be normal were dashed when she was only a few months old. Tests revealed that those oxygen-starved moments after Anna was shot left Michelle blind and severely brain-damaged.

In the penalty phase of McCovey's trial, prosecutors said Michelle would never be able to sit up, crawl, talk or walk. The family fed the child through tubes and faced the probability of having to put her in an institution when she turned 8.

"She required a lot of time. It created a lot of stress in our family," Michael said. But the family delighted in her personality. Today, they grieve her passing.

"Her strong little spirit and the feelings she gave us were always greater than the stress caused by caring for her. She was just part of our family. She still is. It's been a real blessing to have her."

Michelle's difficult birth and early struggle brought Michael his new wife and the Holmes girls their new mother.

Nurse Barbara Young was summoned to the hospital the night Anna was killed to provide primary care to the critical Holmes infant. She met Michael the following morning. The couple married a few months later.

Caring for Michelle required all of Barbara's skill and the added help of her father, a physician.

Barbara's father helped the family find ways to take Michelle down every road they traveled. "She went on all our family vacations. She even went to Cancun with us," Michael said.

"We did everything we could to make her comfortable and to make her time here with us pleasant. She has a very sweet spirit. She just gave off a real good feeling. Everyone that was around her or touched her commented on that spirit of sweetness that she projected."

Michelle's death stirs the old grief over Anna's murder. But Michael remains firm in his early resolve not to foster bitterness. "We are very convinced that everything is well. Our family has healed very well. It has been my intent to make sure that happened from the start. Our family goal is to get through this and be a family."

The time spent taking care of Michelle will now be focused more intently on the three older girls. "This family is still healing," Michael said. "We've got three kids here that need a lot of attention."

And there are future plans. "We hope to have some more children," he said. "That isn't an announcement or anything, but it is something we would like."

On behalf of the family, Michael expressed gratitude to the individuals and the extended community who have helped the Holmes family in so many ways these past two years.