Born and raised in Harnett County, Denise Holden graduated from Cape Fear High School went on to attend North Greenville College in Tigersville, South Carolina. She transferred to Saint Augustine's College in Raleigh, attending on a partial scholarship for basketball and graduating with a degree in Criminal Justice. In August of 1994, she entered Raleigh's Police Academy, formally joining the department on January 13, 1995.
Early on the morning of August 4, 1995, Officer Holden responded to a request for assistance from another officer, who was attempting to arrest a suspect when they began struggling. As she turned from Morgan Street onto Hillsborough Street, she lost control of her vehicle and struck a utility pole, flipping the car upside down. She died on the scene.
Officer Holden was survived by her parents, two sisters, and a half sister.