The smoke has cleared since gunfire erupted on Babbling Brook Drive in Saginaw as police executed a search warrant on 17-year-old Tyler Holder, the teen accused of murdering 6-year-old Alanna Gallagher. Holder is reportedly in critical condition at a local hospital, and the police officer who was shot, identified yesterday afternoon as Charles Lodatto, is recovering after taking a bullet to the groin. And with the release of Holder's arrest affidavit yesterday, we have a clearer picture of what happened to Gallagher and how the investigation unfolded.
Gallagher's body, clad only in purple underwear, stripped and wrapped in a silver tarp, was discovered by a group of teenagers about a mile from her house on July 1. Her wrists and ankles had been bound with red duct tape, which had also been used to secure four plastic bags from Walmart over her head, according to The Dallas Morning News, which has the most extensive report. The tarp was cinched tight using a belt.
Suspicions fell almost immediately on Holder. Saginaw police noticed him on the night of the murder, pacing up and down the sidewalk. The next day, he stared from across the street as they searched the Gallagher home, two doors from his own.
Holder, interviewed early in the investigation, told police that he'd woken up about 2 p.m. on the day of the murder, according to the News. He'd watched some TV, then went to apply for a new job, having recently been fired from Sonic. He said he hadn't interacted with his 6-year-old neighbor on the day in question.
A mounting body of evidence suggested otherwise. Police scanned surveillance video taken from either end of Babbling Brook Drive, which belied his claim he'd driven off that day in search of a job. Then there was the silver tarp a neighbor remembered covering a wood pile in the Holder backyard, which he denied had ever been there.
The FBI brought him in for an interview on July 5, four days after Gallagher's murder. He continued to deny his involvement in the case and volunteered to provide agents with a DNA sample, which came back as a match for evidence taken from Gallagher's body and the belt that secured the tarp. Hair belonging to the Holder family dog was also found on the tarp. Investigators are still awaiting the results of additional tests, according to CBS 11, but were confident enough to make the arrest.
In the aftermath of the arrest, local media outlets interviewed neighbors and former classmates and scoured his weed-referencing Facebook page in search of an explanation for Holder's behavior.
Here's CBS 11:
Parent Lisa Arnold lives in the same Saginaw neighborhood and has known Holder since he was in fifth grade. She describes him as a troublemaker and says she tried to keep her kids away from him.
"He came over. Sometimes he seemed fine, and then he would ask my kids about drugs in the fifth grade. And that's when I told him he needed to stay away," she said.
Arnold remembers talking to Holder on the street as neighbors gathered the night Gallagher's body was found. She says he acted pleasant and casual, as if nothing had happened.
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.
The Morning News, which describes Holder as "a socially awkward teen who carried knives, joked about rape and made people uneasy," also quotes Dawson.
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"He was the kid that you were always really nice to because you didn't know if he was going to come shoot up the school," she told the paper. "He was an angry person."
The report continues:
Lauren Allen, 15, recalled a confrontation between her older brother and Holder a few years ago after a rare snowfall. Her brother built a snowman, and Holder poured water on it, ruining it, she said.
Lauren's brother threw a snowball at Holder, who "just turned around and pulled out his pocket knife," she said.
"He was weird and creepy, and he's been violent in the past," Lauren said.
Cassie Hustede, 20, dated Holder off and on until earlier this year. She is in a Tarrant County jail on a burglary charge, but her mother, Patricia Hustede, said that she had concerns about Holder.
"I said to Cassie, 'There's something bad about him -- keep him away from my house,'" Hustede said.
In conclusion, Holder was an extremely creepy kid who gave neighbors an ill-defined sense of unease. Pretty much every neighborhood seems to have one of those. Most don't grow into rapists and murderers. It's easy to go back and see the signs now, but there are no easy explanations in a case like this.