The saying “different strokes for different folks” is a way of saying that we’ve all got our peculiarities about what we want out of life and what makes us happy. What’s normal to you may be weird to someone else so generally, it’s not a great idea to judge.
But when it comes to raising children, there are some things that are conventions for a reason. Most parents like to have a good idea of where their children are at all times simply so they can make sure they’re safe. When one unusual family disagreed, they would find out exactly why other parents thought that way…
Girl Around Town
Alanna was a little girl who was well known around her neighborhood of Saginaw, Texas. If you asked any of her neighbors, they would tell you that she was the little girl always riding her purple scooter around. She was friendly and outgoing and would often show up at her friends’ houses, knocking on the door to ask them to come out and play.
Unusual Family Unit
To say that Alanna’s parents weren’t typical was a bit of an understatement. They considered themselves polyamorous, meaning that Karl, Laura, and Miles were in a committed relationship. Aside from Alanna they had two older children, a boy and a girl…
Let Them Be
Aside from their atypical romance, the trio of parents had an unconventional way of raising their kids, favoring the “free-range” parenting style. The idea is to let their kids develop and learn to be independent by leaving them to their own devices with very little parental supervision.
She’s Still Great
There were plenty of people in the neighborhood who disapproved of Karl, Laura, and Miles’ domestic situation and also thought that the way they chose to raise their kids was irresponsible. But none of that stopped people from loving Alanna…
Be Home For Dinner
On a summer day in 2013, when 9-year-old Alanna went outside to play in the early afternoon, she was told that dinner would be at 6:30. But after dinner, Laura was unable to find her daughter close to the house.
No one knew where Alanna was but her curfew was at 8pm so no one was worried. Alanna always wore her watch, her favorite color purple, and was almost always home on time, so they sat down to eat dinner without her. After dinner, Laura quickly drove around the neighborhood looking for her before deciding to wait for the girl to come home after it got dark. When that didn’t work, Laura and Karl made another trip around the neighborhood…
Checking with Neighbors
When they hadn’t spotted Alanna on that second trip, the parents went around the neighborhood knocking on doors at around 9pm to see if she was at a friends house of if anyone had seen her. It was during that search that Laura spotted a police car and flagged the officer down.
Laura told the officer that her 9-year-old was out past her curfew and she was wondering if he’d seen anything. Laura said that she felt a little silly involving the police in tracking her daughter down but, unfortunately, her concerns were far from silly. Just a couple of hours earlier, some neighborhood kids had made a horrific discovery…
At around 7:30 2 kids riding their bikes heard the squeal of tires and looked up to see a red pickup racing away from a crumpled gray tarp on a street corner. They went to inspect the tarp and when they lifted the edge to peek underneath, they saw the semi-nude body of a child. The kids began to scream, which drew the attention of an adult, then ultimately the police.
The body under the tarp was Alanna Gallagher. Her hands and feet were bound with red duct tape, there were 4 plastic Walmart bags placed over her head secured with more red duct tape, and under the tarp, her body had been stuffed into a black trash bag. Her clothing had been rolled up and thrown in the bag with her but her favorite purple watch was missing…
While she had died from suffocation, Alanna had suffered terrible trauma while she was still alive. She had bruises to her face, arms, and torso and a later autopsy would reveal that she’d been sexually assaulted. As the Saginaw police secured the scene, several officers noted the familiar face of Tyler Holder in the small crowd.
Bad News Kid
The 17-year-old Holder was something of a neighborhood miscreant. He wasn’t in school, didn’t have a job, and his Facebook was full of pictures of him smoking marijuana and making trouble. Holder also had a reputation as a bully, one time pulling a knife on another boy and threatening him after the boy threw a snowball at him…
Holder also had numerous run-ins with the law for damaging property and stealing. Most notably police suspected him of stealing his mother’s firearms after he gave them an impossible story about a break in after reporting the guns stolen. He was also suspected of being behind a rash of car burglaries, not because there was proof, per se. It just seemed like the kind of thing he would do.
Keeping An Eye
Due to his reputation, his being at the crime scene, and the fact that he lived just 2 doors down from Alanna, Holder was at least unofficially on the minds of local investigators as a potential suspect. Police spoke to him as they were interviewing neighbors on the day of the murder and he told them that he’d woken up around 2pm, then had gone fishing all day…
But later, when the FBI became involved in the case and re-interviewed a number of potential witnesses, Holder gave them a completely different story, saying he’d watched a bit of TV then left the house to look for a job. There was also some questionable behavior from Holder in the days after the murder. When neighbors organized a vigil for Alanna, he showed up wearing a t-shirt that read “WANTED.”
Then in July, there was another emergency on Alanna’s street, this time a fire. First responders rushed to the scene to find that someone had set fire to a memorial that had gone up in front of the Gallagher home, as well as Karl Gallagher’s car. An ATF investigation indicated that it was arson…
Around that time, a friend of Holder’s named JR came forward with information related to the case. He told investigators that on the day of the murder, Holder had told him that police had found Alanna Gallagher’s body hours before they’d realized she was the victim. JR thought that was strange at the time but after he’d found some alarming things on a phone Holder had given him, he decided he’d had to come forward.
On the phone, Holder had searched for things like “best child pornography” and had photos of himself wearing women’s underwear and nude, some with objects inserted into himself. He also had a Craigslist history of anonymous hook-ups with men and women…
Just one day after the arson, investigators got back the results of the DNA material they’d found on Alanna’s body. When they matched them against the cheek swabs they’d taken from everyone in the neighborhood earlier, it was clear that Holder was the killer. When an FBI task force went to his home to arrest him, Holder opened the door as if he were surrendering, but then pulled out his mother’s 9mm handgun and shot 22 year Arlington Police veteran Charles Lodatto in the groin.
Holder was shot in the neck and both he and Officer Lodatto were rushed to the hospital and successfully treated for their wounds. In Holder’s home, they found the red duct tape used in the crime, gas cans and other evidence linking him to the fire at the Gallagher’s home, as well as Alanna’s watch. They also found a note from Holder to his mother indicating that he intended to commit “suicide by cop” or go on the run from police. In order to spare the Gallagher’s a trial, Holder was offered a plea deal for what he’d done to Alanna and Officer Lodatto and was sentenced to prison with the possibility of parole after 50 years.