State News

Jul 4, 2013 9:52 AM

Agents Work to Reconstruct North Texas Girl's Last Hours

SAGINAW, Texas (AP) - Brightly colored teddy bears mark the spot in a North Texas neighborhood near where a 6-year-old girl was found dead, tied and wrapped in tarp on a quiet residential street intersection.

As authorities kept up their search for leads Wednesday, parents of children who played and went to school with the Alanna Gallagher filed by the makeshift memorial where the body was found two days earlier. Authorities have not said how the Saginaw girl died and were awaiting full autopsy results.

"How am I supposed to explain to my daughter that her good friend is gone?" said Michelle Ruiz, the mother of a 6-year-old girl who went to school with Alanna. Ruiz wiped away tears as she talked about Alanna's death.

"Never in a million years would I have thought I'd have to tell my daughter that her friend is dead," Ruiz added.

Damon Ing, a Saginaw police spokesman, said Alanna's death was being investigated as a homicide, but sought to reassure frightened neighbors that police considered her death to be isolated. No suspects have been named, and authorities have established a $10,000 reward for information in the case.

Police continue to search for a red truck with green paint splattered on the rear right side, Ing said.

Stephanie Bryant, who lives a few houses away from the Gallagher family in this community north of Fort Worth, said she remembers seeing Alanna often wander around the neighborhood on her own, though Alanna would come by the Bryant home.

"She was just a smart little girl who loved (classical) piano music," Bryant said.

Two teenagers discovered Alanna's body Monday night, about two miles away from her family's home. Owen Whiddon, 14, said Wednesday that his mother asked him to pick up the tarp, thinking it had fallen from a passing car. He uncovered the body and noticed the girl was dead.

"His look on his face, it was terrible, but as soon as he started having tears we knew something was wrong," said Owen's 18-year-old cousin John Smith, who was with Owen. "And when I noticed it was a girl, I dropped to my knees and just started crying."

Owen's father, Wesley Whiddon, called police. On tape of the 911 call released on Wednesday, Whiddon is heard telling a dispatcher what his son found.

"I think it's a baby girl, a little girl," Whiddon said. "I don't know if it's real. It looks real."

Neighbors said they were still searching for answers and dealing with their own fears of something else happening.

"No matter what neighborhood it happens in, it's still awful, and it's still a tragedy," said Deedra Pace, who lives on the block where the body was found. "But you just don't expect it to happen in your neighborhood, on your street."

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