Brother, 12, not intruder, killed Leila Fowler, police say

Teacher Cecilia Richardson helps a student tie a ribbon honoring murder victim, A student ties a ribbon to a fence honoring Leila Fowler at Jenny Lind Elementary School in Valley Springs, Calif., after the third-grader was stabbed to death at her home.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The arrest of Leila Fowler’s 12-year-old brother in her slaying come after a long investigation that initially focused on an intruder who the boy said entered their home and stabbed the girl.

“We have put over 2,000 hours in this investigation to provide Leila Fowler’s family answers to her death,” Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz told reporters Saturday night after the arrest was made. “Citizens of Calaveras County, you can sleep a little better tonight.”

The boy, whose name was not made public, will be charged with murder, the sheriff said at a news conference, according to Associated Press.


The slaying made national headlines and had authorities warning residents of the tight-knit area where the crime occurred to lock their doors and remain vigilant.

Leila and her brother were home together on the night of April 27 at the family home in Valley Springs, a rural town of 7,500 residents southeast of Sacramento. Their parents had gone to a Little League game.

The boy told investigators he had heard an intruder, then saw a man running away from the home. The boy said he then found his severely injured sister. He called his parents, then 911, officials said.

An autopsy determined Leila, 8, died of shock and bleeding as a result of multiple stab wounds.

Her brother’s account sent authorities scrambling to find the killer. They fanned out in the rural foothill area, searching indoors and out for any sign of the intruder. Extra patrols were dispatched to the elementary school where Leila was a third-grader and along local school bus routes.

Police arrested Leila’s brother shortly after 5 p.m Saturday, according to a Sheriff’s Department news release. As part of the investigation, authorities seized several knives from the home Leila shared with her father, stepmother and siblings to determine whether one could have inflicted the fatal wounds.

Kuntz declined to answer questions about what the department deemed “an ongoing investigation.”


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