Teen neighbor suspected in Saginaw girl's sex assault, death

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by TERESA WOODARD / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on July 24, 2013 at 8:51 AM

SAGINAW, Texas — The body of six-year-old Alanna Gallagher was discovered found under a tarp along a Saginaw street on July 1.

We now know she had been sexually assaulted.

Police on Tuesday said the suspect in her death is 17-year-old neighbor Tyler Holder. According to an arrest warrant, his DNA matched DNA at the crime scene.

Holder is in critical condition after being shot in the head by police on Tuesday morning. Investigators said he fired at veteran Arlington police Detective Charles Lodatto as a task force was attempting to take him into custody.

The officer, recovering from a gunshot wound to the thigh, was saved by a tourniquet applied by emergency crews.

The death of Alanna Gallagher is a case that has shocked and saddened neighbors.

The arrest affidavit reveals gruesome details about what happened to the six-year-old. It also reveals how detectives zeroed in on her 17-year-old neighbor.

Not only was there a DNA match, but the plastic trash bags and duct tape found covering Alana's body matched bags and tape taken from his house.

Yellow crime tape was all mixed up with purple ribbons once again on Tuesday.

The purple honors a slain child; the yellow means her accused killer has been caught, just two doors from Alanna's home.

Within days of Alana Gallagher's murder, 16-year-old Mikayla Dawson received an odd text message. It had been years since she had heard from Tyler Holder, a boy she went to middle school with. "I remember he was a troublemaker," she said.

In the texts, Holder asked Mikayla what she's been up to. She responded, "Oh, nothing."

"And he said, 'Yeah, same. I've just been getting into trouble... the usual,'" she recalled.

Mikayla did not reply to that last text, but now wonders what could have happened if she did.

"I wonder if he would've told me, and I could've helped solve this faster," she said.

Mikayla said she made a choice not to associate with Holder or his friends back in middle school, and she hadn't seen or heard from him in years.

"You never sit down on your first day of middle school and think, 'That's gonna be the kid who kills someone,'" she said.

The mother of Holder's ex-girlfriend agrees. She did not want to be identified in a TV interview, but she sobbed as she spoke with News 8 off-camera.

The woman said she was in disbelief that someone who had been in her home and had played with her five-year-old granddaughter could be accused of such a crime.

She said the last time she saw Holder was in late June, when he asked her to sell some DVDs at a local pawn shop for him.

The woman said she did not get a good feeling about Holder when she first met him, but in time, she started to trust him.

Her daughter is now in jail for theft. She said her daughter had been in trouble before she knew Holder, but she started spiraling further down after they began dating.

Pictures from Tyler Holder's Facebook page show him smoking, and bragging about getting high.

Neighbors saw Holder the night of Alana's murder. They said he was calm and interested in the investigation, but not anxious.

They also saw him at a community vigil wearing a T-shirt with one word across his chest: WANTED. One neighbor said that was both inappropriate and a red flag.

"You show up in that, after you've been questioned?" asked Yolanda Sierra. "You just want the attention."

Neighbor Lisa Arnold said she was warned about Holder by a teacher at their school.

"We were told when my kids were little, I have a son the same age as him, that we needed to stay away from him," she said.

Of particular interest in this case is the timeline.

The arrest warrant says the little girl was last seen by her parents and another neighbor between 2 and 2:30 p.m. on July 1. Alanna's body was discovered at 7:19 that night, But it wasn't until after 9 o'clock that a family member flagged down an officer and reported Alanna was missing.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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