SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

Update:  Nicolas Holzer appeared in Santa Barbara Superior Court Wednesday afternoon but his case was continued until September 9.  No plea was entered.

(Earlier story)

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney's office has formally charged Nicolas Holzer following the stabbing death of four family members.

District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced the charges Wednesday morning at a news conference in downtown Santa Barbara.

Holzer, 46, has been charged with four counts of murder with a special allegation and one count of animal cruelty.

Dudley emphasized that these are only charges and Holzer is innocent until proven guilty.

Holzer is accused of murdering his two young sons and parents with kitchen knives Monday night in their home near Goleta. He also allegedly killed the family dog, which is an additional felony offense.

"With each of the murder cases clearly it is the possibility of life, but we also have the special circumstance of multiple murder  so that would be  life without the possibility of parole or the death penalty," said Dudley.  A decision on the death penalty has not been made.

NewsChannel 3, KCOY 12 Central Coast News, KEYT.com and KCOY.com will provide ongoing updates on this developing story.