Saginaw police have no suspects in ‘disturbing case’

Posted Wednesday, Jul. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Audio: 911 caller: 'I think it’s a little girl in a plastic bag'

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Investigators have no suspects in the “disturbing case” of Alanna Gallagher, the 6-year-old girl whose body ended up under a tarp on a residential street Monday, a Saginaw police spokesman said Wednesday.

That means “any single person in this area is a suspect,” officer Damon Ing said at a news conference.

Alanna’s parents, two siblings and another adult were at the family’s home on Babbling Brook Drive on Monday while Alanna evidently was in and out of the house, playing outside much of the afternoon, police said.

The family was questioned by police. “We have many leads to follow,” Ing said, “but at this time, the family is not suspected.”

Ing said a $10,000 reward was offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer or killers.

Alanna’s siblings are staying with family friends, Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman with Child Protective Services, said Wednesday in an email. The family has no history with CPS, Gonzales said.

On Tuesday, residents said Alanna was a gregarious child, known to many neighbors. She was also known to walk the neighborhood alone, calling on friends to play.

Ing said he had no information about that.

“At this time, it would be an assumption to say that there has been any parental neglect,” he said.

The news conference was at the city’s recreation center on McLeroy Boulevard. Farther down the street, police officers, Texas Rangers and dozens of FBI agents were crowded into police headquarters, working the case.

“I kid you not, there’s 200 to 300 agents in there,” Ing said.

Among them was the Tarrant County major-case investigative team, which includes investigators from the police departments in Arlington, Benbrook, Euless and Grand Prairie and the sheriff’s departments in Parker, Tarrant and Wise counties. Investigators from the Tarrant County district attorney’s office were also involved.

Alanna’s body is at the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office, which has not released the cause of her death, Ing said.

The officer said he does not believe that a predator is stalking Saginaw.

“I want to assure the community that it is perfectly safe,” Ing said. “We don’t have this sort of thing here. I believe this will be an isolated case.”

911 call

Earlier Wednesday, police released the audio of a 911 call made after Alanna’s body was found.

“We got a dead body on the corner of Roundrock and Cindy Lane,” caller Wesley Whiddon told the dispatcher. “It’s in a black trash bag. There’s a belt around it, tape.”

Whiddon said his children — two teens — found the body shortly before 7:30 p.m. Monday.

“I think it’s a little girl in a plastic bag,” Whiddon told the dispatcher. “Someone dropped it off.”

Whiddon told the dispatcher that he didn’t open the bag.

“I don’t want to put my fingers all over it,” he said.

Alanna disappeared Monday while playing outside her home.

“We’re still trying to piece together when she was last seen,” Ing said. “She had been going in and out of the house all afternoon.”

Her father reported her missing shortly before 9:30 p.m. The body had been found about two hours earlier about a mile from her home.

Neighbors told TV news reporters that Alanna’s body, found under a tarp, was naked with her hands and feet bound and a bag over her head. A plastic bag was found under the tarp, police said. They declined to provide other details.

FBI agents could be seen removing evidence from Alanna’s home Tuesday.

According to an FBI evidence receipt photographed by KXAS/Channel 5, agents took a blue-gray tarp, electrical tape and Wal-Mart plastic bags from a vehicle registered to Alanna’s parents. The receipt was seen in a vehicle parked on the street in front of Alanna’s house, according to NBCDFW.com.

A judge has sealed a search warrant, police said Wednesday.

Alanna was a kindergartner at Willow Creek Elementary School in the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw district, officials said Wednesday.

“Our community has suffered a terrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers goes out to Alanna’s family and friends,” Superintendent Jim Chadwell said.

“We will continue to support our students, parents, and staff that have been deeply affected by the events of recent days. It is imperative at this difficult time that we come together as a community to share our grief.”

‘Vehicle of interest’

Witnesses reported seeing a red pickup about the same time that the body was found, Ing said. A witness told police that the back right panel had what appeared to be a splatter of green paint.

Police described the pickup as “a vehicle of interest” but said no evidence linked it to the girl’s death.

The death recalls the highly publicized case of 6-year-old Opal Jo Jennings, who was abducted from outside her grandparents’ Saginaw home in 1999. Despite extensive searches, her body was not found until Dec. 30, 2003, when a couple riding horses spotted a section of a skull in a culvert about 100 yards north of Western Oaks Road near the western shore of Lake Worth.

The medical examiner’s office reported that Opal was killed by a blow with a blunt instrument to the right side of her forehead.

Before the remains were found, Richard Lee Franks of Fort Worth was tried twice on a charge of aggravated kidnapping in 2000.

Franks acknowledged giving Opal a ride to a convenience store that day but insisted that he dropped her off safely.

Franks’ first trial ended in a mistrial. In the second, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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