A 3-year-old Alabama girl managed to free herself and seek help after being tied up and held in a bathtub while her grandparents were being killed this summer, a detective testified during a Thursday preliminary hearing for the murder suspects, PEOPLE confirms.
Kristen Gullion, 30, and 23-year-old Zachary Phillips are charged with two counts of capital murder in the stabbing deaths of Mary and Joe “Steve” Holt during an Aug. 2 burglary in the couple’s Birmingham home, online court records show.
On Thursday, following the hearing, a Jefferson County Court judge ordered the cases to be sent to a grand jury for possible indictment, AL.com reports.
The judge made the decision after hearing testimony from Detective Joylyn Craig of the Birmingham Police Department, who took the stand and recounted what happened on the day of the killings, Jefferson County Deputy District Attorney J. Michael Philpott confirmed to PEOPLE.
The Holts’ young granddaughter, he tells PEOPLE, gave authorities a statement saying that her hands had been bound with cord and she was placed in the bathtub.
Craig “further testified that a bloody cell phone charging cable was recovered from the bathroom by police, and that it appeared to still be partially knotted,” Philpott says.
Craig testified how, on Aug. 2, police responded to a 911 call from the Holts’ next-door neighbor saying that a young child, later identified as the couple’s granddaughter, showed up on her doorstep covered in blood, AL.com reports.
The girl had been wandering around the neighborhood, crying and calling out for her grandparents, according to AL.com.
Upon entering the Holts’ house through an unlocked door, officers found the body of the child’s grandmother, 67-year-old Mary Holt, lying face-down in a pool of blood in the living room, Craig said in court, according to AL.com.
Officers found her husband, Joe “Steve” Holt, in a bedroom underneath a box spring and mattress that was covered with a bloody boot print, Craig reportedly testified.
They were both pronounced dead on the scene. The coroner ruled that they both died from multiple stab wounds, Craig said.
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Two knives and an ice pick were recovered from the scene, the detective testified. One of the knives had a broken tip, said Craig, who noted that forensic investigators found a knife tip in Mary’s head, AL.com reports.
Investigators also found a strand of long brown hair in Mary’s hand that didn’t match her hair color, Craig said.
The toddler was with her grandparents that day because Mary babysat for her son and daughter-in-law while they were at work, Craig said in court.
On the day of the slayings, Mary had taken the child to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens at 11:30 a.m., telling her son they had a “great time,” Craig testified, AL.com reports.
Mary normally watched the child at her son’s home, but took her back to her house after the trip, Craig testified.
What the Little Girl Saw
During an interview with police a day after her grandparents were killed, the toddler told investigators how “the bad guy came up behind Nene” and pushed “Nene,” Craig testified, according to AL.com.
“Nene,” the child said, wouldn’t get up, Craig testified, according to the outlet.
The toddler said that when she tried to wake her grandmother, one of the assailants tied her up with the phone cord and placed her in the bathtub, Craig said.
The girl freed herself and went to look for “Napo,” her grandfather, Craig testified.
Unable to find him, she made her way to the neighbor’s house, Craig said.
The neighbor who called 911 told Craig that Phillips, one of the suspects, didn’t like Steve because he believed the older man was surveilling him and had a “vendetta” against him, the detective testified, according to AL.com.
Put Behind Bars
Gullion and Phillips were arrested in Florida a week after the alleged murders, the Miami Herald reports.
She was taken into custody after allegedly parking illegally and the officer realized that the 2012 Honda Civic she was driving had been reported stolen and was connected to a double homicide in Birmingham, an arrest report states, according to the Herald.
Gullion was held in Miami-Dade on a charge of grand theft until she was extradited to Alabama, according to jail records, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
During a search of the car, officers found many of the Holts’ belongings inside, Craig testified.
Phillips was arrested the next day after he allegedly stole another car and led police on four high-speed chases, which ended in a crash in Hollywood, Florida, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
He was booked into Broward County’s jail on Aug. 11 on charges of an out-of-county hold, resisting an officer and trespassing.
Calls to the public defenders representing Gullion were not immediately returned. It is unclear whether Phillips has retained an attorney who could comment on his behalf.
Gullion has pleaded not guilty, according to prosecutors. Phillips remains in custody in Florida awaiting extradition.