Crime

‘One of the worst cases’: Body of Lancaster man, 18, burned and dismembered; 2 charged

Lancaster Sheriff: murdered, dismembered teen found on property

Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said a murder scene on High Point Circle in Lancaster is like "something you would see on tv." Investigators found the dismembered remains of 18-year-old Austin Tyler Steele in several locations on the property
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Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said a murder scene on High Point Circle in Lancaster is like "something you would see on tv." Investigators found the dismembered remains of 18-year-old Austin Tyler Steele in several locations on the property

Two people were charged Friday after a dismembered body was found on a Lancaster County property in what a veteran lawman called “one of the worst cases” he has ever seen.

The dead man was identified as Austin Steele, 18. His 19th birthday would have been Friday, officials said.

Christopher Allen Holford, 30, of Lancaster is charged with Steele’s murder.

Holford remains jailed without bond at the Lancaster County jail, Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said Friday at a news conference.

Holford’s wife, Brandy Nicole Faye Duncan, 19, is charged with helping him cover up the crime.

Police found Steele’s body Thursday on the property at 1838 High Point Circle in Lancaster. The location has a single-story home with a mobile home behind it.

Faile said the body parts had been burned. He said they were hidden under various items on the property – which was strewn with garbage bags.

Rats were crawling on the porch and around the sides of the house.

“This is stuff you see on TV,” Faile said at the news conference. “I would never imagine that we would find or have someone living in Lancaster County capable of doing these kinds of things. I just wouldn’t believe it.

“Probably one of the worst cases I’ve experienced in my 28 years,” Faile said.

Holford and Duncan married last month, and lived with Steele in a mobile home on the High Point Circle property, police said.

Faile said during a new conference Friday that Holford shot Steele in the neck several weeks ago. Steele initially survived, but died the next day, Faile said.

Faile said he didn’t have any details about the motive for the killing.

He said Steele hadn’t been seen for three or four weeks, but had not been officially reported missing.

After a tip to police from an acquaintance of the victim and the suspects, officers searched the property Thursday and found Steele’s remains, Faile said.

An axe, broken sword and knives were found in the mobile home, police said.

It is unclear why Holford, a felon from Missouri, was living in Lancaster, said Doug Barfield, a sheriff’s office spokesman. Holford lived in Florida, where he also registered as a sex offender, before moving to Lancaster in 2017, records show.

Holford also faces charges of illegal possession of prescription drugs. Holford was first charged Thursday with failing to register as a sex offender, police said.

Holford spent time in prison in Missouri, according to court records and Lancaster deputies. Holford was convicted of molesting a female minor in Missouri in 2011, according to court and online records. He was sentenced to five years in prison in 2011 in Missouri for drugs, court records show.

Holford also has weapons and receiving stolen property convictions in Missouri, records show.

Holford was approved for a public defender but because of a conflict the 6th Circuit Public Defender’s Office will not represent him, said Mike Lifsey, 6th Circuit Chief Public Defender. Bill Nowicki, a Rock Hill lawyer, has been appointed to represent Holford, Lifsey said.

Efforts to reach Nowicki for comment Friday were unsuccessful.

Duncan was convicted in 2017 of assault and battery in Lancaster County and sentenced to 30 days in jail, court records show. Duncan will be represented by the public defender’s office. Lifsey, the chief public defender, declined to comment on Duncan’s role in the case.

Check back for updates.

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