The stolen vehicle of a couple found slain in their Birmingham home has been recovered in south Florida, and at least two people are being questioned after separates arrests in just over 24 hours there.
Birmingham police Friday said the gray 2012 Honda Civic taken the same day Mary Holt, 67, and Joe “Steve” Holt, 68, were found murdered inside their house on Ninth Court Circle South has been recovered by Miami police. Police there arrested someone in the vehicle on an unrelated outstanding warrant, said Birmingham police Sgt. Johnny Williams.
Birmingham homicide investigators are in Miami now gathering evidence. Williams said it’s not clear whether the female arrested by the Miami Beach Police Department is a suspect in the couple’s slaying.
According to a Miami Beach Police Department report, Kristen Gullion, a 30-year-old Decatur, Ala. native, was stopped at 1:09 p.m. Thursday on South Pointe Drive in Miami Beach. A police officer on routine patrol had spotted the Honda Civic, which had North Carolina plates, parked illegally in a roundabout.
The officer ran a check on the vehicle and learned it had been reported stolen by the Birmingham Police Department on Aug. 2, 2018. The officer said in his report that Birmingham police requested officers hold and seal the vehicle for processing because it was linked to a double homicide.
While the officer was completing his report, Gullion returned to the vehicle and tried to drive off, according to the report. The officer conducted a traffic stop and Gullion told him the Civic was a friend’s vehicle and “that in situations like this, her father told her to keep her mouth shut.”
Gullion was detained and then arrested on an outstanding receiving stolen property warrant from Cullman County that was issued June 28. She has not been charged with any crime in connection with the Holts’ death and Birmingham police said they are trying to determine why she was in the stolen vehicle.
Alabama court records show Gullion pleaded guilty May 11 to receiving stolen property in connection with a Cullman County burglary after she was found in possession of a Remington .22 rife, electronics and lawn tools worth more than $2,500. She received a two-year suspended sentence, but her probation was revoked later that month after the Morgan County Task Force arrested her for possession of methamphetamine.
Later Friday, Hollywood Police Department spokeswoman Miranda Grossman said a second person has been detained for questioning in the Alabama case. Zachary Taylor Phillips, 23, was taken into custody about 3 p.m. Friday after police spotted a him and a woman in stolen vehicle.
#BREAKING: police on scene in #Hollywood of a crash following manhunt stemming from #Alabama double murder. Suspect Zachary Phillips, 23, in hospital w police K-9 bite after crashing stolen Mustang as @HollywoodFLPD closed in. @wsvn #7News pic.twitter.com/cvTWxhwd46
— Sheldon Fox-7 News (@fox_sheldon) August 10, 2018
This is the car murder suspect Zachary Phillips crashed today while running from @HollywoodFLPD. He’s wanted in connection w/killing #Alabama couple. Link to Phillips came Thurs. after @MiamiBeachPD cops pulled over Phillips’ friend Kristen Gullion in stolen car. @wsvn #7News pic.twitter.com/jGNDuR2lBD
— Sheldon Fox-7 News (@fox_sheldon) August 10, 2018
Grossman said in a press release that the vehicle had been stolen out of Miami Beach. Officers tried to stop the vehicle and it fled, ultimately crashing into multiple parked vehicles. A female – Vivian De La Rosa Toniana – was driving the vehicle and taken into custody at the scene.
Phillips was a passenger, Grossman said, and fled on foot. He was believed to be armed, so a perimeter was established and SWAT called in, as well as tracking dogs. Those tracking dogs found Phillips hiding in a yard and he was captured.
Phillips is from Alabama and has a lengthy criminal history in north Alabama. Though Florida media outlets are report Phillips is a suspect in the deaths, Williams said he is not at this point considered a suspect in the Holts’ death but they certainly want to question him.
The Holts’ bodies were found at 3:50 p.m. Aug. 2 when East Precinct officers responded to the 8700 block of Ninth Court Circle South after they were notified about a child wandering the street alone.
Williams said the child’s clothing was stained with blood, but the child was not injured, police said. The child led officers to two unresponsive adults inside the home. Both adults were pronounced dead on the scene at 4:41 p.m.
A neighbor said her front door was open Thursday afternoon when the little girl came to their house. She was bloody and crying out for her grandparents but didn’t say anything else. Someone from inside the neighbor’s home called 911 and that’s when the brutal crime scene was discovered.
She said she knew Mary Holt often kept her granddaughter while the mother was at work, but said she usually kept her at the child’s home. The child was able to lead officers to the two unresponsive adults inside the home.
“Our community is heartbroken by the loss of Mary and Steve Holt to a senseless act of violence,” according to a GoFundMe launched to help with burials. “Mary was beyond kind. She gave me a hug each and every time I saw her (and I mean EVERY TIME). Steve was the happiest man – youthful and enthusiastic about a wide variety of topics. He could talk about Native American pottery, whiskey distillation, herb gardens, politics, and fish, just to name a few.”
The campaign was started by friends at Grace Episcopal Church in Woodlawn where, they wrote, “Mary and Steve’s presence is imprinted.”
The funeral for the couple is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 18, at Grace Episcopal Church, Woodlawn on Saturday, August 18th at 11 a.m.