A 12-year-old boy made his first appearance in juvenile court Wednesday after being charged with murder in the death of his 8-year-old sister, Leila Fowler.
Attorney Mark Reichel said his client, who did not enter a plea, faces a second-degree murder charge along with a special allegation that he used a dangerous weapon in the Valley Springs, Calif., stabbing.
Reichel declined to go into detail about the case until after he and his partner had reviewed the evidence, but said they “have the same questions as everyone.”
“This involves a 12-year-old who supposedly committed a crime that didn’t result in his immediate arrest,” Reichel said. “Instead, it took about two weeks and thousands of hours of investigation to make him the suspect who was charged.”
He described his client as a “shy, quiet and reserved boy” who, along with his family, was “doing remarkably well under the circumstances.” The boy remains in custody at a juvenile facility in Placerville, Calif., Reichel said.
Calaveras County authorities have remained tight lipped about the boy’s arrest, which sent another wave of shock through a small, Sierra foothill community already stunned by Leila’s death.
The children were home alone April 27 when the boy told authorities an intruder attacked his sister, then ran away. A witness initially said she also saw a man running from the home, but officials said she later recanted.
The Sheriff’s Department launched a property-to-property search and boosted patrols at area schools as frightened families kept their children close. Sheriff Gary Kuntz said authorities spent more than 2,000 hours on the case, which also involved the FBI.
The boy's family has stood by him. On the eve of his arrest, his mother told a Sacramento television station her son was innocent.
“They never even used to fight when they were little,” Priscilla Rodriguez told CBS Sacramento. “I would never see him be mean to her.”
The boy’s father 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.”
Calaveras County sheriff's Sgt. Chris Hewitt said Leila and the boy were two of several children who lived at the Valley Springs home with Fowler and Leila's stepmother. The parents were at a Little League game at the time of the slaying.
The boy called his parents, then 911 after the attack, officials said. The stepmother, Crystal Walters, also called 911.
“My children are at home alone and a man just ran out of our house and my older son was in the bathroom and my daughter started screaming,” Walters told the 911 call operator, according to CBS Sacramento.
“Did they see the man?” the call operator asked.
“They did see him, yes. My daughter is freaking out right now,” Walters said.