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The Murder of Austin Tyler Steele

murder

Eighteen year old Austin Tyler Steele lived in a mobile home along with his roommates at 1834 / 1838 High point circle, Lancaster, South Carolina. He shared the unit with a married couple, 30 year old Christopher Allen Holford and his 19 year old wife, Brandy Nicole Faye Duncan.

Steele was autistic and was raised by his grandfather who had legally adopted him as his own son. After his grandfather passed away in 2012, the young man found himself in the care of a woman named Peggy Rape, whom he remained in the care of until 2018 when he went missing.

Rape described Austin Steele as a caring and empathetic young man who always had a big smile on his face. “He was independent” she said and went on to describe how he would often vanish for several weeks at a time to go on trips before eventually returning home.

 

(Source)

Steele vanished for the last time early this year, but due to his habit of disappearing on road trips, was not reported missing. Neighbors did notice the teenager hadn’t been around but their questions pertaining to his whereabouts were met with an answer that didn’t make sense: “He’s gone looking for his daddy” Holford told them. Anyone who knew Austin Steele knew that his father had died long ago.

On the 1st of March 2018 human remains were discovered on the High point circle property and were identified as belonging to Steele. Police had obtained a warrant to search the premises after receiving information from a friend of the missing teenager. When investigators showed up at the address there was a stomach churning marker indicating the whereabouts of Steele’s headless and limbless torso- a writhing carpet of rats blanketing the deck of the patio attached to the main house.

The infestation of rodents had been feasting on the teens discarded remains for the several weeks that they had clandestinely laid there under various bags. A cadaver dog lead police to the rest of the victims remains including a skull behind the building with bags piled on top of it and a metal barrel in which we can assume the limbs were burned in an attempt to conceal evidence of the crime. Various pieces of bones were also discovered strewn about the property as well as tools thought to have been used in the dismemberment of the corpse, including knives, an axe and a damaged sword.

A video from The Herald online shows the Lancaster property in a state of disarray. A small, white one-floor home and a trailer behind it are encircled with various items of discarded furniture, black plastic bags, old tires, mounds of earth and containers. The windows of the trailer are covered with tattered fabric.

So what exactly happened to Austin Tyler Steele?

On the night of his death, the teenager was shot in the neck by his 30 year old roommate, Christopher Allen Holford. Austin did not die instantly, but suffered into the early hours of the following morning before eventually succumbing to his injuries. It is believed that Holford did not seek out medical attention for the fatally injured teen to prolong his suffering as a form of torture.

(Source)

Christopher Holford was arrested on March 2nd  2018 and a disturbing criminal history was revealed. He turned out to be a registered sex offender who had an outstanding warrant issued in his name for failing to provide authorities with information on his internet usage in regards to a sex crime. This article states that he also neglected to register his status as a sex offender when moving to Lancaster.

There are various profiles online regarding his crimes, one website called “Homefacts.com”, which is a site where people considering moving to certain areas in the US can check the crime rate of their prospective new neighborhood or see if there are any sex offenders registered to the area has a profile on Holford.  Not only does the profile reveal the various aliases he went by over the years, but it also reveals that he was previously charged with child molestation in 2011 and as we know, failure to register as a sex offender in 2015. He has previous drug charges for which he spent time in prison.

This page also lists an arrest in 2014 for fraud and the use of a false ID. He had previously used the following aliases:

Holford, Chris

Holford, Chris Allen

Holford, Christoph

A Halford,

Christoph Allen Holford,

Christoph Allen Holford,

Christophe Allen Franklin,

Christopher Holford,

Christopher A Holford,

Christopher Allan

 

(Source)

Holford and Duncan had only recently tied the knot, but according to Duncan their marriage was filled with anything but love. This article in the Herald describes an incident of domestic violence against her during the 19 year old's stay in hospital, which was witnessed by a nurse. Apparently Christopher Holford came to visit his pregnant teenage wife in late February and was seen punching her and attempting to drag her out of the bed. “He’s a killer” Duncan told the nurse and revealed that her husband of one month had confiscated all forms of identity, such as her birth certificate and driver’s license and refused to return them. He had also taken her cell phone from her, making her unable to contact anyone outside of the hospital. After he was arrested over the incident officers searched the bag he was carrying and discovered even more cell phones and various knives.

The motive behind the crime is (as I write this) unknown. Was there an altercation between Steele and Holford that night? Did Holford attempt to attack the teenager? It’s not difficult to imagine so if we take into account his criminal history of molestation and domestic violence. What we do know is that Steele was gravely injured that night, must have suffered immensely and likely died alone.

We also know that when Holford and Duncan realized that he had finally died, they began to cover up the crime by decapitating the body- making Duncan an accessory to the murder.  

Morbidly, the couple remained living on property most likely hoping that nobody would report Steele missing and they’d get away with the crime- but eventually, the law caught up. 

 

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