The father of a boy accused of fatally stabbing his 8-year-old sister, Leila Fowler, said authorities need to show him evidence before he’ll believe that his son is a killer.
“Until they have the proper evidence to show it's my son, we're standing behind him," Barney Fowler told the Associated Press. “If they have the evidence, well, that's another story. We're an honest family.”
Leila was found stabbed to death in her Valley Springs home April 27. Her 12-year-old brother was home at the time and told police he saw an intruder commit the crime before the attacker ran off.
A witness corroborated the boy’s description of the attacker but later recanted the statement. The boy was arrested on a murder charge Saturday at the Valley Springs substation of the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department.
Before his arrest, the boy’s mother said he was innocent.
“They never even used to fight when they were little,” Priscilla Rodriguez told CBS Sacramento in an interview on the eve of the boy's arrest. “I would never see him be mean to her.”
The attack drew national attention because of the boy’s statement to investigators that a man had entered the family home and killed Leila. As the search continued, authorities warned residents to keep their doors locked.
News of the boy’s arrest brought a wave of relief to the rural area southeast of Sacramento, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
"Citizens of Calaveras County, you can sleep a little better tonight," Sheriff Gary Kuntz told reporters Saturday.
Leila and her brother were home together while their parents attended a Little League game. The boy told investigators he had heard an intruder, saw a man running from the home and then found his severely wounded sister.
He called his parents, then 911, officials said. An autopsy determined that Leila died of shock and bleeding as a result of multiple stab wounds.
Later, Sheriff’s Department officials said there was no sign of a burglary or robbery at the house. Their pursuit of a suspect the boy described as being tall and gray-haired took them door to door and shed to shed. They also searched two reservoirs.
Kuntz said Saturday that investigators spent more than 2,000 hours on the case and were helped by numerous agencies, including the FBI and California Department of Justice.
Prosecutors said they are awaiting investigators’ reports before they consider charging the boy.
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