VALLEY SPRINGS, Calif.
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 TV station KOVR her son “could never hurt his sister. I’ve never seen him be mean to her,” said Priscilla Rodriquez.
Less than a day later, police delivered the stunning news: The boy had been arrested and would be charged with homicide.
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 Associated Press. Other residents expressed similar feelings of disbelief.
Calaveras Unified School District Superintendent Mark Campbell said counselors will be available today at all schools.
Police released no information about what led them to arrest the 12-year-old in the April 27 attack.
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 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 siblings.
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.