Autopsy: Slain Saginaw girl had been immersed in water

Alanna Gallagher, the 6-year-old girl who was killed in July after disappearing while playing in her Saginaw neighborhood, had been immersed in water before her body was found, according to an autopsy report obtained by the Star-Telegram.

Whether the body was immersed before or after the girl’s death — and whether it was an attempt to wash away evidence — remains unclear.

“I don’t know that we’ll ever have definitive answers to the questions you pose,” Saginaw Police Chief Roger Macon said Wednesday. “All of the theories you list are consistent with avenues we investigated over the summer.”

The autopsy report, completed in late October, says that the girl’s body, hair and clothing were wet when she was found and that the surfaces of her hands and feet indicated that she’d been immersed for a prolonged period.

She died, however, from asphyxia caused by four plastic Wal-Mart sacks placed over her head, then secured with red tape wrapped around her neck and head.

Although the autopsy notes that a presumptive blood screen tested positive for an amphetamine, a source familiar with the case described it as a unconfirmed trace amount not believed to be a factor in the case.

Tyler Holder, a neighbor linked to the crime through DNA on the girl’s body and on a belt found with her body, remained in the Tarrant County Jail on Wednesday, charged with capital murder. He turned 18 this month.

The case has not gone before a grand jury.

Holder was indicted last month on a charge of attempted capital murder in the shooting of an Arlington police detective during his arrest.

Laura Gallagher, Alanna’s mother, said Wednesday that she has been told few details of her daughter’s death and will likely avoid news coverage of the autopsy report.

“She was a wonderful, bright, beautiful little girl,” Laura Gallagher said. “We love her and miss her with all our heart.”

Injuries detailed in report

Alanna’s body was found the evening of July 1 inside a black trash bag that had been wrapped with a silver tarp and discarded along a street less than a mile from her home. She had gone missing that afternoon while playing outside her home.

The 58-pound girl’s body was dressed only in a pink floral-print shirt that had been pulled up and pink athletic shoes, according to the autopsy report.

Her wrists and legs were bound with red tape.

Inside the tarp, investigators found Alanna’s blue shorts and pink underwear, as well as a roll of red duct tape and a dirty, smashed roll of toilet paper.

The body showed evidence of sexual assault, including the presence of sperm.

She had head and face trauma, as well as abrasions and bruising on parts of her body, some suggestive of fingertip injuries to her lower abdomen, according to the autopsy report.

Investigation shifts to DA’s office

Holder lived with his mother in the 600 block of Babbling Brook Drive, just two houses from where Alanna lived with her parents, Karl and Laura Gallagher, and Miles McDaniel.

He was questioned by police July 2 but denied seeing Alanna the previous day. Days later, he agreed to provide a DNA sample.

Authorities obtained an arrest warrant after test results linked Holder to DNA found on Alanna’s body and the belt.

Officers from area agencies were arresting him July 23 when they say Holder pulled a gun and fired, hitting Arlington police Detective Charles Lodatto. Another officer returned fire, striking Holder in the head.

Both Lodatto and Holder survived.

Macon said that while detectives are still following up on the “occasional tip that trickles in,” the core of the investigation has mostly shifted to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office in preparation for prosecution.

Because he was 17 at the time of the offense, Holder is not eligible for the death penalty or life in prison without parole if he is convicted of capital murder. Instead, he would face life in prison with parole possible after 40 years.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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