Sibling's dad wants evidence in stabbing

2013-05-14 10:02
The family of slain 8-year-old girl Leila Fowler attend a vigil held for her at Jenny Lind Elementary School in Valley Springs, California. Leila's father, Barney Fowler, centre, stands with Leila's mother Crystal Walters, right, at his shoulder. (Fi

The family of slain 8-year-old girl Leila Fowler attend a vigil held for her at Jenny Lind Elementary School in Valley Springs, California. Leila's father, Barney Fowler, centre, stands with Leila's mother Crystal Walters, right, at his shoulder. (Fi

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Valley Springs — The father of a 12-year-old boy accused of fatally stabbing his 8-year-old sister said on Monday he will believe his son is innocent until he sees evidence that proves otherwise.

Barney Fowler told The Associated Press the family is backing the boy, who was arrested on Saturday after a crime that terrified this Central California community.

"Until they have the proper evidence to show it's my son, we're standing behind him," Fowler said. "If they have the evidence, well that's another story. We're an honest family."

The boy told investigators on 27 April that he encountered a random attacker in the family home while his father was attending a Little League game. He described the man as tall with long gray hair.

The boy said the man fled on foot and he found his sister, Leila Fowler, bleeding.

Leila's death set off an intense manhunt in the rural community where some residents had moved to escape big city crime. The Calaveras County Sheriff's Office spent more than 2 000 man-hours amassing evidence and searching door-to-door.

Fundraisers

Residents of the rural community began locking their doors and calling authorities when they thought they saw men who fit the description.

They also held fundraisers for the Fowler family and turned out by the thousands for a candlelight vigil in Leila's honour.

"We're thankful to the community and all they've done for my daughter," Barney Fowler said.

He echoed comments made earlier on Monday by his son, Justin Fowler, aged 19, who told the AP the family was in shock and extremely sad about the boy's arrest.

"We're just in a fog," Justin Fowler said.

Rumours began spreading last week around town that the 12-year-old was a suspect. The AP is withholding his name because he is a juvenile.

Another kind of reality

"I know there were a bunch of rumours going around saying it could possibly be him but nobody wanted to say that he could do that," said Maureen Lourenco, whose children attend middle school with the boy. "I have a 12-year-old son and my daughter's 14 and I just can't fathom them doing that."

Residents say the Fowlers are good neighbours who never caused any problems. Now after fearing for weeks that a random intruder had committed a heinous crime in their midst, they're dealing with another kind of reality.

"To kill a little girl? Eight years old? I don't understand how" they handle that, neighbour Arturo Magallon said.

People across the mountain community were relieved there had been an arrest, and the crime did not appear to be the work of an intruder.

"I see a lot of people now starting to walk again like it used to be before," Magallon said.

Investigators initially maintained the boy was being questioned only as a witness.

Mixed emotions

The Fowler family is now trying to cope with what could be a double tragedy.

"We're just trying to stay positive, but it's hard," Justin Fowler said.

Days after his sister's killing, the 12-year-old brother appeared at a vigil for his sister. Justin was photographed with the name "Leila" written on his forearm. Barney Fowler attended with his fiancé, Krystal Walters.

"We're a strong family," Barney Fowler said on Monday. "We're staying strong."

On Monday, counsellors were talking to the siblings' classmates at Toyon Middle School.

"Our kids are experiencing a lot of mixed emotions," said Superintendent Mark Campbell. "We have a degree of ease that it's not a random assailant, but it's a double whammy from our school perspective. We lost a student and we stand to lose another. It's a lot for our kids to process."

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