This is one of three passages in the novel (see also p. 252 and p. 290) where Judge Holden is implicated in the murder or sexual abuse of children. It is yet another detail drawn from Chamberlain’s My Confession:
terrible stories were circulated in camp of horrid crimes committed by [Holden] when bearing another name, in the Cherokee nation and Texas; and before we left Fronteras a little girl of ten years was found in the chapperal, foully violated and murdered. The mark of a huge hand on her little throat pointed him out as the ravisher as no other man had such a hand, but though all suspected, no one charged him with the crime.
Chamberlain also describes another incident involving Holden abducting a Pima Indian girl and ‘proceeding to take gross liberties with her person’ before drawn guns shied him from his ‘prey’. Although never explicitly stated in McCarthy’s novel that Holden is responsible for the deaths of the children, it is heavily implied.