On Nov. 2, 2018, Christian Hollis was traveling through Mobile on his way to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, where he was going to help his father unload furniture before attending the Alabama game in Baton Rouge that weekend. At around 2 a.m., Hollis made a wrong turn and was in the process of turning around on the Cochrane Causeway — a strip of swampy land just south of the Cochrane-Africatown Bridge — when his car became stuck on the shoulder. Hollis then proceeded to get out of his car to see why his car became stuck, according to his father, Chuck.
A witness told police he saw Hollis in the middle of the road and stopped to see if he needed help. But the witness drove off after Hollis threw his hat to the ground, then took off his shirt and threw it to the ground. The witness told police he was worried by Hollis’s actions and drove up the road a bit to call 911. As he was doing so, another motorist pulled up and told him the man in the street had been struck by what was described as a “dark-colored van.”
Another witness told police Hollis was standing in the roadway facing north with his head tilted back with “his arms stretched out as if he was a cross in the roadway.”
The driver of the van fled the scene, leaving broken pieces of his vehicle behind. Hollis was pronounced dead at the scene after police arrived, according to reports.
Later that day, after officers recorded evidence, they took the parts to a local auto dealership where they were able to positively identify the van model involved. A “be on the lookout” or BOLO was issued in search of the vehicle and its driver.
On Saturday morning, Nov. 3, police reports say attorney Rick Williams reached out to the Mobile Police Department (MPD) and told detectives the van they were looking for was located at a repair shop in Fairhope. Kurt Allen was identified by police as the owner of the van, as well as the suspect in the hit-and-run.
Once officers examined the vehicle, the report states, the damage to the van was “consistent with what the hit-and-run vehicle should have.”
A musician, Allen was in the Mobile area playing a show at Lucky’s Pub on the night of the accident. An online schedule of performances from that time shows Allen played at Fairhope’s Bone and Barrel the next night. Despite the circumstances described in the police reports, Allen was never arrested or charged in the incident, and a grand jury declined to indict him in early 2019.
More than four years have gone by since Hollis was killed on the Cochrane Causeway and since that time, his father and mother, Rene Brasfield, have worked tirelessly to see Allen held responsible for his death. But they say answers and accountability have been hard to come by and they feel like the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office has let Hollis’s death go unpunished.
Decision not to arrest
When Hollis was killed, Mobile County District Attorney-elect Keith Blackwood was with the office’s murder team and was tasked with prosecuting the case. According to a copy of MPD’s traffic homicide detail report obtained by Lagniappe, despite positively identifying Allen’s van as being involved in the hit and run, Blackwood directed officers not to arrest him and to obtain “additional evidence.”
Evidence seemed to overwhelmingly point to Allen as being the driver. In the report, DNA evidence was taken from Allen’s van as well as from a broken antenna found at the scene, which was later confirmed to be from the van.
Furthermore, according to the report, investigators obtained video of Allen checking into the Key West Inn in Fairhope at around 3 a.m. Nov. 2, shortly after Hollis was killed. According to the report, video showed Allen getting out of his vehicle and inspecting the damage multiple times, seemingly indicating awareness he’d hit someone or something.
“On the video, you see the van pull into the parking lot and pull into a parking spot in front of the office. Mr. Allen gets out of his vehicle and walks around to the front of the van and inspects the damage,” MPD officer Joshua Pounds wrote in the report. Pounds also noted video showed that after checking in and parking the van in another spot, Allen inspected it again. A passenger was also observed leaving the van and examining the vehicle with Allen.
The report also states Allen was captured on video the following morning in the motel lobby telling an employee he had hit something the night before and damaged his van.
Also stated in the report, a man named Mike Bullock contacted MPD claiming Allen was the driver in the hit and run. Police met with Bullock, who claimed Allen had posted on Facebook he had hit something, which in turn began a text conversation between the two men. Police took screenshots of the Facebook posts as well as the text conversations as evidence.
On Nov. 4, police also received a call from an insurance agent for Allen who stated he had hit something on Nov. 2 and needed to have his van repaired.
Forensic evidence, such as the broken antenna, also came back in January 2019, by which time Allen was out of the state continuing to play shows across the Southeast and Midwest. Along with the forensic evidence, analysis of Hollis’ bloodwork at the time of the accident revealed he had alcohol in his system.
Allen, who hails from Kansas City, Kansas, according to the report, is part of the Kurt Allen Band. He released an album in April 2021 titled “Whiskey, Women and Trouble”; one of the tracks on the album was titled “Graveyard Blues.”
Blackwood said his decision to present the evidence to a grand jury instead of arresting Allen and extraditing him to Alabama was due to his desire to expedite the case. Blackwood spoke about the decision to not arrest Allen despite the evidence against him.
“I did not authorize the arrest because, at the time, I needed additional evidence which would have been the forensic evidence that came back a month after the incident,” Blackwood said. “By the time I felt comfortable that we had enough evidence we had probable cause, this guy was out of state. In my thinking, if he’s out of state, the quickest way to get this case through the process is to just indict him at grand jury, which I tried to do.”
According to Allen’s online show schedule, after playing at the Bone and Barrel in Fairhope Dec. 3, he proceeded to play at venues in Nebraska, Missouri and Arkansas before playing a pair of shows in Mississippi just over one month after the hit-and-run.
As for the “additional evidence” Blackwood claimed was needed at the time, he said he needed more “admissible evidence” to pursue charging Allen with a crime. He also admitted law enforcement knew Allen was the driver at the time.
“Although we knew Kurtis Allen was the driver, we had very little admissible evidence at that point and that would have been the reason I requested additional evidence,” Blackwood said. “Allen did not give a statement, his attorney did, which would not be admissible as evidence against Allen in court. Although we knew Allen was the driver, we had very little admissible evidence.”
The only evidence Blackwood identified as being inadmissible, though, was a statement from Allen’s attorney.
Ultimately, after everything was presented by Blackwood, the grand jury did not indict Allen. With that decision, he was free to continue his life and career without charges against him for leaving the scene of Hollis’ accident.
Blackwood said he was “shocked” with the decision from the grand jury to no-bill the case.
“I was as shocked as anybody and I have been on the family’s side from the beginning,” Blackwood said. “And I, from the beginning, believed he knew what he hit and I still believe he knew what he hit and that he committed this leaving the scene of an accident involving death and that he should have been held accountable for it. I presented this for an indictment thinking I was going to get an indictment.”
Where to go from here
The jury’s decision to not indict, along with Blackwood’s decision not to arrest Allen for the hit-and-run, has lingered in the hearts and minds of Hollis’s family and friends for years, as well as those who worked the case, according to Hollis’s father, Chuck.
“I was in total shock when it was no-billed,” Chuck said. “We were devastated because the detective called me and said he was stumped as well.”
Being the primary suspect in a fatal hit-and-run accident hasn’t stopped Allen from returning to the Mobile Bay area. According to an online schedule, on June 2022 Allen played a show at Bone and Barrel in Fairhope, the same venue he played less than 24 hours after the incident in 2018.
Attempts to reach Allen for comment for this story were unsuccessful.
Allen’s attorney, Rick Williams, declined to comment on any matters related to the case citing attorney-client privilege. However, he said he has kept in contact with Allen over the years.
“Once upon a blue moon I hear from him,” Williams said. “But the case was no-billed and it’s gone, so there’s really no reason for me to keep in contact with him. But he has sent a message on occasion like a lot of my clients do.”
Blackwood said the only way Allen could be arrested now is if new evidence were to come to light as he cannot be arrested using the same evidence presented to the grand jury.
As for new evidence, Chuck Hollis believes it could lie with the passenger who was with Allen in the vehicle that night.
“I know the passenger in that van knows what happened,” Chuck said.
Blackwood said the passenger was able to be tracked down and after a lengthy subpoena process came to Mobile and gave a statement. He said he was hoping to bring the case before a new grand jury in Nov. 2019, depending on the information gathered from the passenger.
However, while the passenger honored the subpoena and gave a statement, Blackwood said he did not provide new information that could have led to a new presentation to a grand jury.
“When I presented it, I had all of the evidence that I thought we could get in the case with the exception of the identity of the passenger,” Blackwood said. “After it was no-billed, I wanted to reopen the investigation and find out who the passenger was, which I did. But when he came here to honor the subpoena, he did not give us any new evidence that would have allowed for us to present to a new grand jury.”
Hollis’s family is continuing to look for answers as to why Allen was never held accountable for fleeing the scene after hitting Christian. They claim the answers they have received, or have not received, from Blackwood have perplexed them for four years.
Chuck Hollis said Blackwood has told the family “multiple times” the reason he could not arrest Allen is because Allen claimed he did not know what he hit that night.
“I’ve never heard of a hit-and-run where you can claim you don’t know what you hit,” Chuck said. “All we have ever wanted from the district attorney’s office is answers and justice for Christian.”
Meanwhile, Blackwood said the notion he could not arrest Allen for “not knowing what he hit” stems from a conversation with the family about potential reasons for the grand jury no-billing the case.
“When we were talking about why the grand jury no-billed the case, I probably speculated about what [the jury] could have thought and why,” Blackwood said. “When we were all confused as to why the grand jury no-billed it, I probably speculated as to why in the world they would make the decision they did. And I believe certain members of the family took that as me advocating for the defendant as I believed what I was speculating about and that was absolutely not the case.”
As the years go by, Chuck Hollis has grown frustrated with the lack of answers and accountability. And now, he said, he’s willing to take on the DA’s office head-to-head if needed to get answers.
“How many other people have they done this to?” Chuck asked. “I’ll go the distance for Christian. I’ve talked to a lot of lawyers and I want to go up against the district attorney’s office and show what they’ve done here. I’ve been battling this for four years. This has never been about money or anything like that. We want justice.”