Tyler Lane Holder, the Saginaw teen accused of sexually assaulting and suffocating 6-year-old Alanna Gallagher, is headed to prison after striking a plea deal with prosecutors Thursday.
Holder reached pleaded guilty Thursday to three separate charges, including the little girl's murder, arson and attempted capital murder. Prosecutors said Holder must serve at least 50 years before he can be considered for parole.
Gallagher's body was found by children on a residential street July 1, 2013, covered with a tarp. Her head was covered with plastic grocery sacks, and her wrists and ankles were bound with duct tape.
A few weeks later, on July 19, 2013, the family's home and car were set on fire. The investigation into both crimes led police to Holder, who lived not far from the Gallagher family. Holder initially told police he had no contact with the child, but DNA later linked him to the crime.
On July 23, investigators arrived at Holder's home with arrest and search warrants. When investigators told Holder he was being arrested, police say he pulled a gun from behind his back and opened fire, striking Arlington Detective Charles Lodatto, part of a special task force investigating the girl's slaying.
Lodatto was hit in the femoral artery, but survived the shooting and has returned to work, prosecutors said.
“Today a dangerous killer was brought to justice,” said Deputy Chief District Attorney Bob Gill. “This heinous and unusual crime was solved through the extensive joint efforts and expertise of the Saginaw Police Department, the FBI and the Tarrant County DA’s Office-initiated Major Case Investigative Team. Because of their diligence, Tyler Holder will never pose a danger to another child. The family of Alanna Gallagher and Officer Charles Lodatto are very satisfied with this resolution of the cases.”
Holder must serve at least 50 years in prison under his plea deal, prosecutors said Thursday.
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That is because he is sentenced to life for the murder charge, 20 years for the arson charge and 40 years for the attempted capital murder charge. The murder and arson charge are being served concurrently, but the attempted capital murder charge will be served consecutively, or after the first two charges are satisfied.
"This means that Holder will have to finish serving his time or be granted parole on the murder and arson charge before he begins serving his time on the attempted capital murder charge," prosecutors said.
Holder was originally charged with capital murder in connection with the girl's death. That charge was reduced to murder, prosecutors said, to expedite the trial and avoid a legal loophole.
"In Texas, defendants who are age 18 and over and convicted of capital murder, receive an automatic life sentence with no possibility for parole. In late 2012, however, the United States Supreme Court declared mandatory life sentences unconstitutional for defendants under age 18," prosecutors explained. "Because Holder was 17 when he committed the offense of capital murder, prosecutors were left without a sentencing option for a capital murder conviction."
Holder's trial was originally scheduled to start in October.
NBC 5's Chris Van Horne and Scott Gordon contributed to this report.