Crime & Punishment

North Texas teen pleads guilty to murdering little girl and setting family's house on fire

Teen pleads guilty to murdering little girl and setting house on fire

The disturbing case against accused child murderer and rapist Tyler Lane Holder came to an abrupt end September 4. Tarrant County prosecutors reached an agreement with the now 18-year-old in which he pleaded guilty to murder, arson and attempted capital murder in exchange for a life sentence, plus 40 years.

Holder was 17 years old when he allegedly raped and killed 6-year-old Alanna Gallagher in Saginaw. He was due to go to trial for capital murder in October, but because he was not 18 years old at the time of the crime, a legal loophole would have prevented him from serving the mandatory life sentence without parole in Texas.

"Rather than navigate unchartered waters, which would delay justice, it was decided to proceed on the murder charge," the Tarrant County District Attorney's office said in a release.

Under the terms of the plea deal, Holder will serve a minimum of 50 years before he is eligible for parole.

About two weeks after killing Alanna, Holder set fire to her family's house and car. Police quickly identified the teenage neighbor as a suspect, and his DNA matched evidence at both crime scenes. In addition to Alanna's murder, Holder also faced charges of arson and attempted capital murder for shooting a police officer who tried to arrest him on July 23, 2013.

After Holder pleaded guilty and was sentenced, Alanna's mother, Laura Gallagher, read a lengthy victim impact statement. In it, she called Alanna "a treasure."

"She was loved and loving more in her brief life than many are their whole life. She cared about people. She brightened every room she was in," Gallagher said, adding, "that's been taken away from the world. And it's your fault."

Alanna's body was found wrapped in a tarp with her ankles and wrists bound with duct tape. Plastic bags covered her head, and her official cause of death was asphyxia. It was also determined that her body had been immersed in water for a period of time surrounding her death.

"No matter how much suffering you undergo in prison, it won't be as much as all the people who knew and loved Alanna have been, and will continue to be suffering," Gallagher said. "I hope you remember this, and that you live with shame for what you have done, every day that you live, every day that Alanna is gone from us."

Tyler Holder mugshot
Tyler Holder killed Alanna Gallagher in July 2013. Photo via Saginaw Police
Alanna Gallagher
Alanna Gallagher, 6, was brutally tortured and killed by her neighbor. Photo via Saginaw Police