People who live on Babbling Brook Drive in Saginaw believe their neighborhood has got it right.
Kids play together, and parents watch over them, and over other people’s children.
But their sense of security was shattered Monday when a 6-year-old girl who had been playing outside her home was found dead under a tarp in a street about a mile from her home on Babbling Brook.
The FBI and the Texas Rangers were on the scene Tuesday.
“We assumed that this was an abduction, so we asked the FBI to be here,” Saginaw Police Chief Roger Macon said Tuesday. The Rangers routinely assist police in smaller jurisdictions that are confronted with major crimes.
The girl, who had not been officially identified by late Tuesday, was reported missing about 9:15 p.m. Monday after her father went through the neighborhood searching for her.
The child’s body had already been found less than a mile away at Roundrock Drive and Cindy Lane by two teenagers, Macon said.
Neighbors told local TV news reporters that the girl was found naked, with her hands and feet bound and a bag over her head. A plastic bag was found under the tarp, police said, but declined to provide other details.
The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office is scheduled to perform an autopsy today, officer Damon Ing, a police spokesman, said.
Father searched for girl
Neighbors identified the child as Alanna Gallagher.
John Janus, who lives on Crystal Brook Drive, the next street over to the west, said his 11-year-old daughter attends school with Alanna’s older sister, and that the girl frequently played at his home.
She had brown curly hair and a constant smile.
“She seemed smarter than the average 5-year-old, just because of the questions she’d always ask,” Janus said. “And her parents are nice and very, very smart people. They like books. The last time I was in their home, the front room looked like a library.”
Janus said the father is “a cool guy” with a great sense of humor.
“I walked with him on many a Halloween,” Janus said of the trick-or-treat outings their families shared. “I think that’s a dad thing.”
On Monday evening, Alanna’s father came to the Januses’ front door with a worried look on his face, saying that he couldn’t find his little girl.
“You could tell on his face, he didn’t know what to do,” Janus said. “It was like he was in shock and that he didn’t know where else to look.”
Janus said he offered to help him search and as they walked toward the street, two police patrol units pulled up next to each other on the corner. The officers were talking “car to car.”
The father approached the cars. Janus said he suspected that the man was asking about his daughter. The father turned back toward Janus, but one of the patrol cars pulled around to the father, Janus said, and the officer offered to drive him back to his house.
‘Vehicle of interest’
“We’re trying to establish when she was last seen,” Macon said. “We’re also trying to determine when the tarp was first seen because we’ve had witnesses put the time from mid-afternoon until 7 p.m.”
Macon noted that the girl had friends in the neighborhood around her home, but authorities had not determined if she had been playing with any of them.
Investigators hope a video recording taken by a Saginaw police officer in his patrol car as he drove around the area where the body was found may provide clues, police said.
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.
Macon described the pickup as “a vehicle of interest,” but said there was no evidence linking 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 to the right side of her forehead from a blunt instrument.
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.