Teen linked to Saginaw girl’s death through DNA evidence

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A 17-year-old neighbor of 6-year-old Alanna Gallagher became a suspect in her death and sexual assault through DNA evidence found on her body and on the buckle of a belt that was wrapped around a tarp holding her body, according to an arrest warrant affidavit released Tuesday.

Officers were in the process of arresting the neighbor, Tyler Holder, on a capital murder warrant Tuesday morning when he pulled a gun and fired, authorities reported. Officers fired back.

Holder and Arlington police Detective Charles Lodatto were shot.

Holder was shot in the head and taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. His condition could not be learned.

Lodatto was in serious condition Tuesday afternoon after surgery at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth, Dr. William Witham said. The bullet tore through Lodatto’s femoral artery and is lodged in his hip.

Witham said Lodatto could have bled to death in minutes had someone not applied a tourniquet.

“He has a difficult road ahead of him, but we’re very, very optimistic about his condition,” Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson said at a news conference at the hospital. “His family is with him.”

Lodatto, an Arlington police officer for 21 years, was Detective of the Year in 2012.

Lodatto is assigned to the Safe Street FBI Task Force, one of several groups investigating the death of Alanna, whose partially nude body was found on a residential street less than mile from her house on July 1.

Lodatto was among several officers who were serving search and arrest warrants for Holder at his home at 649 Babbling Brook Drive. The residence is two houses from where Alanna lived with her parents, Karl and Laura Gallagher and Miles McDaniel.

Katherine Chaumont, an FBI spokeswoman, said officers knocked on Holder’s door about 9 a.m. He was alone in the house.

Holder lived there with his mother, Kimberly Holder. Tuesday afternoon, she referred questions to her attorneys and said she did not know her son’s condition.

“I don’t know. They won’t give me information,” Kimberly Holder told the Star-Telegram. “I’ve been asked to leave the hospital. I’m so unhappy right now.”

One of the attorneys, Lance T. Evans, said in an email Tuesday evening: “Mrs. Holder is in shock, and is extremely worried about the condition of her son, as any mother would be. I ask that the Holder family’s request for privacy be honored as they come to grips with today’s events. No further comment at this time.”

When Alanna’s body was found, there were four plastic Walmart sacks over head, secured with red duct tape. The girl’s wrists and ankles were also bound with red duct tape, the affidavit states. The body was then placed in a black plastic trash bag before being wrapped in a silver tarp that was secured with a man’s belt.

According to the affidavit, investigators suspect that Holder sexually assaulted and suffocated the girl.

A suspect emerges

Alanna’s mother, Laura Gallagher, flagged down a Saginaw officer on July 1, reporting that her daughter had left home about 2:30 p.m. that day to play with neighbors and had not come home.

Holder, according to the warrant, was first questioned by police on July 2.

Officers had seen the teen pacing up and down a sidewalk during their initial canvass of the neighborhood.

Neighbors told police that Holder was a “troublemaker” who had been involved in criminal mischief in the neighborhood. Some of the neighbors said Holder told them that Alanna’s body had been found even before such information had been released by police, the affidavit states.

During an interview with investigators, Holder said he had slept until about 2 p.m. on July 1 and then watched TV. He couldn’t recall what he watched, the affidavit states.

Holder said he also went to apply for a job because he had recently lost his job at a fast-food restaurant. He said he had not had contact with Alanna and that she had never been in his house.

But, according to the affidavit, video taken by surveillance systems at two nearby houses showed that Holder’s car never left the residence that day.

Another neighbor told police that she had talked to Holder while searching for the missing girl and that he had told her he had been fishing all day.

On July 5, Holder agreed to give a sample of his DNA to investigators.

On July 20, results of tests were returned, linking him to DNA recovered from the girl’s body and a belt buckle that had been wrapped around the tarp, the affidavit states.

Other evidence also pointed to Holder’s involvement, the affidavit states.

Trash bags seized July 22 from outside the teen’s house — the same type that Alanna’s body had been placed in — contained red duct tape. A silver tarp that a neighbor had reported was used to cover a pile of wood in the back yard of Holder’s home was now missing. A toilet paper roll found with Alanna’s body was traced to a Costco where Kimberly Holder shops, according to the affidavit.

‘He just seemed off’

Richard Spencer, a former classmate of Holder, said he avoided him.

“He wasn’t intimidating or anything like that, he just seemed off,” Spencer said. “I just decided to stay away from him.”

A spokeswoman with the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw school district said Holder last attended school in the district in 2010.

Linda McDaniel, Alanna’s grandmother, said that family members had not known that investigators suspected their neighbor.

“Nobody was aware of anything, and we didn’t even know anything was going on until after it had already happened,” McDaniel said.

Asked whether her son, Miles McDaniel, or the Gallaghers were acquainted with Holder, McDaniel said, “I didn’t get the impression that they know him.”

McDaniel said her granddaughter had been taught about “stranger danger” but it would not surprise her if the bubbly, outgoing girl did not consider a neighbor a threat.

“I’m afraid that maybe she equated strangers with somebody she didn’t know that approached her rather than somebody she knew by sight,” McDaniel said.

“She has two older siblings so she knew a lot of the families and the kids in the neighborhood. It was a pretty relaxed neighborhood that they felt safe in.”

‘He had his vices’

A neighbor said Holder lived at the residence with his single mother.

“He’s a knucklehead but you know, he’s 16 or 17, so is he capable of doing something like this? I really wish not,” said the neighbor, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

The neighbor said the teen stood out in the neighborhood.

“He’s rough around the edges, so of course all our middle-income, regular folks are like, ‘That kid needs to cut his hair and straighten his act up,’” the neighbor said.

The neighbor said he had had several conversations with the teen since he was a child.

“He had his vices,” the neighbor said. “I really thought that maybe he was kind of straightening up a tad bit.”

The neighbor said that although he knew investigators had talked to Holder shortly after Alanna’s slaying, he thought little of it because they had talked to all the neighbors extensively.

The neighbor said there were times when he saw Holder out riding his bike every evening.

“I would be like, ‘How’s everything going?’ I know he had a little part-time job this summer,” the neighbor said.

But since Alanna’s death, the neighbor said he had seen Holder only once.

“I had not seen him out and about in three weeks,” the neighbor said.

He said that he had never witnessed Holder interacting with Alanna, but that he had likely talked to her because the girl was very visible in the neighborhood, often going into neighbors’ garages to play with toys.

“Tyler’s garage was open like a lot of peoples’, so had he ever talked to her? I’m sure he’s talked to her because she had talked to everybody,” the neighbor said. “But I had never seen him carrying her around or really interacting with her.”

Numerous agencies involved

Alanna’s slaying is being investigated by Saginaw police, FBI agents, Texas Rangers and other law enforcement agencies. Members of the Saginaw police department, the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force and the North Texas Major Case Investigative Team were present during the execution of Tuesday’s warrant, officials said.

Early Friday, a fire was set in a car in the Gallaghers’ driveway. No one was injured. The fire is being investigated as arson.

McDaniel said she was angered that some people were quick to assume that Alanna’s parents were involved in her death. But she said, “The people who knew them and most of the people in their neighborhood were real supportive of them.

“Most of the people that were making the accusations and assumptions didn’t know them.”

Staff writer Terry Evans contributed to this report.

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655 Twitter: @deannaboyd Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763 Twitter: @mingoramirezjr

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FBI statement on shooting in Saginaw
649 Babbling Brook Drive, Saginaw, TX
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