VALLEY SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) - A day before a 12-year-old boy was
arrested for the stabbing death of his 8-year-old sister, his mother
described him as "protective" of his younger sibling.
Leila Fowler's killing last month shook the quiet
community of Valley Springs, southeast of Sacramento, and set off an
intense manhunt. Her brother was in the home at the time and told police
he saw a man run from the scene.
Days later, the boy appeared with his father and
stepmother at a vigil for his sister. On Friday, as speculation in the
community built that perhaps the boy was involved, his biological mother
told Sacramento television station KOVR her son "could never hurt his
"I've never seen him be mean to her," said Priscilla Rodriquez.
Less than a day later, police delivered the
stunning news: The 12-year-old boy had been arrested and will be charged
For a community still reeling from the killing, the news was another blow.
"It's bad enough to lose a child. I can't imagine
losing a child by one of my own children," Patti Campbell, a longtime
area resident and owner of Campbell's Country Kitchen, told The
Campbell, a resident of the area for 33 years and
the operator of the Valley Springs restaurant for 15 of them, said she
had served Leila and her family in her restaurant.
"It's just shocking. I don't know what else to say," Campbell said.
Other residents in the community of about 7,400 people expressed similar feelings of disbelief.
"I did not want to believe it. You kind of thought
so, but it's not something you want to believe," resident Tammy
Ainsworth told Sacramento's KCRA-TV.
Aaron Plunk, a neighbor of Fowler's, said the
arrest was staggering but he could rest easier now. He said he and his
family had been extra vigilant about locking windows and doors, even
though the street was being closely guarded by deputies.
"I think we were the safest house in the county," Plunk told the Modesto Bee.
Plunk's mother, Carla Plunk, said she had been scared enough to arm herself.
"It the first time I ever held a gun," she said.
Calaveras Unified School District Superintendent Mark Campbell said counselors will be available Monday at all schools.
The district "stands ready to provide whatever
level of support and assistance is necessary to the Fowler family" and
the community at large, he said Sunday.
Police released no information about what led them
to arrest the unidentified 12-year-old for the April 27 attack.
Following the crime, investigators did a door-to-door sweep of homes,
storage sheds and horse stables scattered across the oak-studded hills
foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Divers also searched two nearby
reservoirs in search of clues.
Leila's brother told police he found his sister's
body and encountered an intruder in the home while their parents were at
a Little League game. He described the man as tall with long gray hair.
A neighbor told detectives she saw a man flee the home, but she later
recanted the story.
Police said there was no sign of a burglary or
robbery. As part of the investigation, authorities seized several knives
from the Fowler home, where Leila lived with her father, stepmother and
Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz said
authorities spent more than 2,000 hours on the investigation before they
arrested the boy at 5:10 p.m. Saturday.
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