Holly Rutledge: 11 Months After 5-Year-Old Dies, Murder Rap Hits Dad's Girlfriend — What Happened?

Holly Rutledge -- almost a year after her boyfriend's 5-year-old son was found dead in what was at first considered a mysterious incident in their Whitwell, Tennessee, home -- found herself behind bars last Friday after the state's Bureau of Investigation said that detectives had found evidence that made them sure Rutledge was responsible for the death of the little boy.

Rutledge, who is 30-years-old and also goes by the name Holly Hardesty, was indicted by a Marion County grand jury on charges of alleged first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse in connection with Lucas Dillon's death, according to an Associated Press report.

Holly Rutledge Lucas Dillon Murder
Lucas Dillon, allegedly slain by Holly Rutledge [Photo via Chattanooga News Screen Capture]

The family of little Lucas Dillon remained worried Monday. They say that the $50,000 bond set by a judge is too low to keep Rutledge behind bars, and that they believe individuals in Whitwell, a tiny town of fewer than 2,000 people, have begun an effort to raise money on the accused child killer's behalf.

"We're just aggravated," Michael Dillon, grandfather of the slain child, told The Chattanooga Times-Free Press newspaper over the weekend. "It's taken nine months to get the autopsy report, and in just a few short hours she might be able to make bond."

It was on March 28 of last year that Michael Dillion drove his son Nathan to work on a Saturday morning, leaving behind 5-year-old Lucas who called after his dad and grandfather as they prepared to drive away.

The boy's dad told Lucas he should go back in the house and "wake up Holly," who would take care of him while his father was working, according to the Times-Free Press report.

What happened next is documented in this video news report from WTVC-TV, which aired shortly after Lucas passed away at a nearby hospital.

Michael Dillon says that he received a phone call from Holly Rutledge, letting him know that somehow Lucas had stopped breathing. The story she told, according to the grandfather, was that after preparing breakfast for the little boy, she went off to take a shower. When she got out, she went into Lucas's room and found him unresponsive.

By the time Michael Dillon arrived at Parkridge West Hospital in Jasper, Tennessee, he found doctors working frantically to restart Lucas's heart. Eventually, they succeeded in getting a heartbeat back but no matter what they did, they could not induce the badly injured little boy to breathe on his own again. The family had Lucas removed from life support on March 29, 2015.

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Michael Dillon says that the story Rutledge told of coming out of the shower to find a comatose Lucas "just doesn't make sense." He remains fully convinced that somehow, and for some reason, Holly Rutledge murdered his grandson.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was called into the case by local District Attorney J. Michael Taylor, and the investigators finally concluded that the boy's grandfather was allegedly right. Evidence showed, they said, that Holly Rutledge killed Lucas Dillon.

An autopsy on the child showed that his cause of death was blunt force trauma, and that his body showed severe head injuries, as well as battering to his neck and shoulders.

"I believe with all my heart and all my soul that she murdered my grandson," Michael Dillon said.

What happened? And why? Those are details that the TBI has not yet made public, if indeed it has them at all, saying only that it has "developed information which led to Rutledge" as the killer of Lucas Dillon.

Holly Rutledge Lucas Dillon Murder
Location of home where the Lucas Dillon was allegedly beaten Photo via Chattanooga News Screen Capture]

But, as Michael Dillon suspects, Holly Rutledge has defenders in Whitwell. On a local Internet message board, one user posted a message claiming that Rutledge did not injure Lucas — and never would.

"People really need to grow up and leave this girl alone," the poster wrote. "She did not hurt little Lucas or any other child for that matter. She loved him and took care of him while Nathan was at the bar and [name withheld] was at the Mexican trailer park pimping herself for money."

Whatever the true story is in the death of Lucas Dillion, according to District Attorney Taylor, "It's not going to be resolved quickly."

Holly Rutledge is scheduled for an arraignment hearing on Friday on the charges that she allegedly killed 5-year-old Lucas Dillon.

[Featured Photos via WTVC Screen Capture, Marion County Sheriff's Department]