December 30, 2013

13 from 2013: Children’s slayings rocked their communities

Within a week’s time this summer, two young children — Sida Osman, 5, of Fort Worth and Alanna Gallagher, 6, of Saginaw — vanished while playing outside their homes.

Their cases were heartbreakingly similar.

Within a week’s time this summer, two young children — Sida Osman, 5, of Fort Worth and Alanna Gallagher, 6, of Saginaw — vanished while playing outside their homes.

Both were found dead within several hours: Sida in the back yard of a nearby vacant home and Alanna lying along a street less than a mile from her home, her body inside in a black trash bag.

In both cases, teenage neighbors were arrested.

Almost six months later, the fate of one of the teen suspects has been determined, the other remains in jail awaiting trial, and shock and grief over the children’s slayings remain.

“We’re just trying to get through the holidays as best as we can,” said Laura Gallagher, Alanna’s mother.

A place for reflection

Tyler Holder, accused of sexually assaulting and suffocating Alanna, spent his 18th birthday last month in the Tarrant County Jail.

He was indicted on a capital murder charge Dec. 12, court records show. He had previously been indicted on a charge of attempted capital murder after the shooting of an Arlington police officer who was trying to arrest him.

David Carter, a former Saginaw officer, had occasional dealings with Holder during his time on the force.

Carter is now a Parker County sheriff’s deputy.

He and the non-profit group he founded, Specialists Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, a mixture of military and first-responder personnel, wanted to do something to ensure that the community never forgets Alanna.

At Willow Creek Elementary, where Alanna had attended kindergarten, the group is constructing a living memorial in a courtyard near where her class met.

“I feel like I’m somewhat obligated to the Gallagher family to try to help give them something to show that not everybody is bad people. There are good people,” Carter said. “I want to do this so the family, after it’s said and done, can have someplace that they can go to outside of their house that they knew Alanna was safe, she was happy, she had friends, she was learning.

“All the things that I have wished for my children.”

The memorial, designed by Carter, will featured a polished granite, circular monument engraved with a phrase suggested by Alanna’s parents. Carter and club members are also working on an addition that, when hit directly by the sun, will cast a silhouette on the stone of a young girl chasing butterflies with a net.

“Our community and our school family have pulled together to try deal with the heartbreak,” said Willow Creek principal Lacei Koffi. “We look forward to the memorial being a place where we can reflect on her memory.”

Carter said the finished memorial, which will be unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony planned for February, will serve as both a learning center for up to 40 students at a time and a place for friends and family to remember Alanna.

“So they can see that other people share in their pain and their tragedy,” said Carter, who has an 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son.

“I just can’t wrap my head around what happened, as a father.”

Last-minute plea

Sida’s family has its own reminder of the child they lost.

Pregnant at the time of her son’s killing, Dahabo Abdi would later name her newborn after the brother he would never get to meet.

Sida’s family is among several Somali Bantus refugees who fled their war-torn country and settled in Fort Worth. They have moved from the Webber Garden apartment complex and the painful memories it holds.

Also gone from the complex is the mother of the teen who, last month, acknowledged killing Sida. He will spend up to 23 years behind bars.

In a last-minute plea deal, the neighbor, 13 at the time of the killing, acknowledged throwing a 14-pound bowling ball at Sida’s head twice after becoming enraged that the boy was pestering him to go to the store.

Ray Hall Jr., one of the teen’s defense attorneys, said the teen is remorseful. He recalled that the teen broke down while meeting with Hall after one of his many detention hearings.

“He just buried his face in my shoulder and was just bawling, saying I can’t believe I took another person’s life,” Hall said. “He didn’t want to be known as a child killer. He just broke down.”

Now, the teen exchanges letters with his mother from a juvenile correction facility in Brownwood.

How long he’ll actually serve depends largely on him. With the court’s approval, he could be transferred to adult prison after his 16th birthday.

“He could get paroled out of the juvenile system and, hopefully, he will, but he’s going to have to act how he’s supposed to act when he’s down there and do what he’s supposed to do,” Hall said.

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