Saginaw suspect’s grandparents recall a different boy

Posted Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Jeff Holder can’t help envisioning his grandson, Tyler Lane Holder, as a young boy.

Tyler Holder was only about 6 when a family dispute led Tyler’s mother, Kimberly, and her twin brother to cut off contact with their father and his new wife, Gina.

Jeff Holder would not set eyes on his grandson again until Tuesday, when the now-17-year-old’s picture was flashed on every local news website and TV station, reporting that he’d been shot in the head as officers tried to arrest him in the sexual assault and suffocation of 6-year-old Alanna Gallagher.

“I was in chemo treatment yesterday all day. My wife tried to shield me from it,” Jeff Holder said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “It was about 4 or 5 o’clock when she finally got the courage to tell me. I’ve just been trying to catch what I could on the news about what’s all going on.”

Tyler Holder remained at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. Hospital officials and Saginaw police declined to release his condition.

He is accused of sexually assaulting and suffocating Alanna, who lived two doors down on Babbling Brook Drive in Saginaw, then concealing her body in a trash bag and tarp and discarding it on a street less than a mile from her home. Court documents say he was linked to the crime through DNA found on the body and on a belt buckle wrapped around the tarp.

“We continue to pray for Tyler. We love him because he is our grandson, but this situation is shocking and we hate this has ever happened. A monster did this horrific crime — not how we remembered Tyler at all,” Gina Holder said.

‘It breaks everybody’s heart’

Tyler Holder faces a capital murder charge in Alanna’s death. And investigators obtained an attempted capital murder warrant Wednesday, accusing Holder of shooting Arlington police Detective Charles Lodatto as investigators tried to arrest him.

According to the affidavit, Holder told investigators who arrived at his door Tuesday that he was not going to speak with them. Upon being told that he was under arrest, Holder reached behind him and pulled out a handgun, the affidavit states.

FBI agent Andy Farrell had pushed the teen inside the house and was struggling for the gun when Holder fired it, striking Lodatto in the groin, the affidavit states.

Saginaw Detective Robert Richardson returned fire, hitting Holder in the head, the affidavit states.

The bullet tore through Lodatto’s femoral artery and lodged in his hip. He was listed in good condition Wednesday, said Arlington police spokeswoman Zhivonni McDonnell.

“He continues to recover at the hospital and [is] surrounded by family and friends,” McDonnell said in an email.

Heartbroken about the officer’s shooting, Alanna’s family donated blood Tuesday to help the wounded detective.

Lodatto is assigned to the Safe Street FBI Task Force, one of several groups investigating Alanna’s death.

Jeff Holder said his heart goes out to Alanna’s family and to the injured officer.

“I would just like the family to know that I love them and the officer that got shot to know I love him and I hope he gets better,” Jeff Holder said. “It breaks everybody’s heart. I just can’t express enough my sorrow for what all happened.”

A ‘wild child’

Kimberly Holder had become pregnant with her son while attending Boyd High School, her father said.

Tyler Holder seemed to have little relationship with his father, identified in court documents as Glenn Geisen.

Geisen told Tarrant County district clerk officials in a 2009 letter that he was not even aware that he had a child in Texas until he was served with a citation two weeks earlier indicating that child support was being sought.

Geisen, who lives in Montana, asked for officials’ help in making sure that Tyler was his son.

“On another note to everyone involved, if the facts on this show that it is my child, I will do everything that I can to be part of his life and to keep things right whatever they may be,” Geisen wrote.

Paternity tests indicated that Geisen was almost certainly Holder’s father. It is unclear, however, whether Geisen ever established a relationship with him. Geisen did not respond to messages seeking comment Tuesday or Wednesday.

Jeff Holder said his daughter lived with him and her mother after having the baby.

After the divorce, Jeff Holder and his new wife, Gina, bought Kimberly Holder a mobile home and set it on their property so she could live there with her son, then around 2, he said. A boyfriend of Kimberly’s also lived there.

Gina Holder remembers Tyler Holder as a “wild child,” a little-bitty kid who had to be forced to eat his macaroni and cheese and was on medicine for hyperactivity.

“He had a mind of his own, for sure,” Gina Holder said. “Even when he was young, he was hard to correct. He was hard to corral. … It was his way or no way.”

Gina Holder said her husband asked his daughter to leave after they found the mobile home trashed, with drug paraphernalia inside. She said Kimberly Holder and her son drifted apart from the couple after that.

Jeff Holder said his daughter and son stopped talking to him altogether after a dispute involving his ex-wife at a hospital after his son was injured in a motorcycle wreck.

Jeff Holder said all he had to remember his grandson by is a framed photograph of the boy from 2002, posing in a football uniform, that is hanging in his Boyd home.

“He looked like a sweet little kid,” he said.

A ‘stoner’ and ‘knucklehead’

Neighbors have described Holder as a “stoner,” a “troublemaker” and a knucklehead” known for criminal mischief around the neighborhood. Holder’s Facebook page contained several references to his love of smoking marijuana and photographs showing him smoking.

Gracie Vasquez, speaking in Spanish, said she’d seen Holder walking up and down the middle of the street, wearing a trench coat on a warm day.

“People don’t know what type of neighbors they have,” Vasquez said.

Another neighbor, Landon Smith, said he has lived in the neighborhood for about two months.

“Everybody said it was a quiet neighborhood and then this happened,” Smith said.

Smith said he was concerned that police had described the killing as an isolated incident while the suspect “was still living in the neighborhood.”

Lauren Allen, 15, had briefly attended elementary school with Holder and lives a street away. She said that Holder often rode a motorized bicycle through the neighborhood but that she avoided crossing his path.

“I have always been afraid of him because he’s scary,” Allen said. “I’ll avoid him if he’s around the neighborhood. I’ll go the other way if I see him.”

Allen said that a few years ago, during a snowstorm, Holder poured water over a snowman made by her and her brother.

She said her teenage brother threw a snowball at Holder, who pulled a knife on him.

“He turned around, looked at my brother and pulled the knife out,” Allen said. “My brother just kind of backed up, and he walked away.”

‘Not a little baby anymore’

Neighbors said that Kimberly Holder worked hard to provide for her son but that she often had to leave the teen unsupervised at home.

“His mom works. She works long hours, and he’s not supervised as well as he should be. But mom’s a single mom,” one neighbor said.

Gina Holder said she and her husband are shocked that the little boy they knew could grow into the alleged “monster” described in court documents.

“I keep saying grandbaby,” Gina Holder said. “Seeing him on TV, compared to the last time we saw him, he’s a grown man now. He’s not a little baby anymore.”

Jeff Holder began crying as he said he wants to make amends to those hurt by this tragedy.

“I figure the best thing I can do is, once he gets well and out of the hospital and gets his sentence — whatever it’s going to be — I’m going to try to talk to an evangelist I know, see if I can go counsel with the boy and tell him that there’s a God that loves him,” Jeff Holder said.

“Satan hates him and intends to destroy him, but there’s a God that loves him and wants to protect and take him in.”

Staff writer Diane Smith contributed to this report.

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655 Twitter: @deannaboyd

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