Isaiah Fowler, the 12-year-old California boy accused of murdering his 8-year-old sister, Leila Fowler, says through his lawyers that he denies the charges against him in a case that has gained national interest.
Isaiah, who was only identified in court as “Isaiah F.,” but whose name has widely been reported as Isaiah Fowler, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges Wednesday in Calaveras County juvenile court.
Isaiah’s court appearance took about two minutes, the Stockton Record reported. The short session was attributed to the boy’s lawyers not asking for the case to be dismissed or that he not remain in juvenile jail as he awaits trial.
A trial date is scheduled to be set on June 31.
The 12-year-old allegedly killed his 8-year-old sister, Leila, on April 27. Isaiah told authorities that an intruder killed his sister, which sparked a massive manhunt in California that encompassed the Sierra foothills. But authorities said the boy’s story didn’t check out, and the 12-year-old was charged with Leila’s murder on May 15, after a two-week investigation.
Isiah’s lawyer Mark Reichel, who entered the not-guilty plea on the boy’s behalf, said he denies the charges.
"Our view of the case hasn't changed. We got in believing our client was innocent, and as we stand here, that's what we believe,” Reichel said outside the courthouse steps.
He contended that there was no “smoking gun” in the case against Isaiah, although he conceded that his client lied about the intruder. Still, Reichel said, that doesn’t mean the boy killed his sister.
"We're still in the middle of our own personal investigation of the facts," Reichel said, according to KCRA.
Isaiah is confined in a single cell in a juvenile facility, goes to the jail’s school and works out at the jail, the attorney said.
"We talk to him often, and he's doing pretty well actually," Reichel said. "It's not ideal, but it's acceptable for now."
Reichel told Reuters that Isaiah was suspended from school in January for bringing a Swiss Army knife. Aside from that incident, the lawyer said the 12-year-old is “a very normal boy in a normal setting with normal siblings.”
The Fowler family moved to an “undisclosed location” since the charges. One of Isaiah’s attorneys, Steve Plesser, told KCRA that the family is “unsettled.” He said he was trying to get the boy released to his parents while he awaits trial, but hasn’t yet asked a judge to follow through on the request.
"We don't have the best release plan in place at this point," the attorney said. "The family hasn't had a chance to get a firm foundation on their home life yet."
The murder of Leila Fowler gained considerable media attention because of Isaiah Fowler’s age and the allegations that he killed his sister. Isaiah could be held until his 23rd birthday if convicted of the charges, according to Reuters.
Neighbors said they were shocked to learn that the young boy was charged with killing his 8-year-old sister
"She was just a beautiful little girl, always out there playing," neighbor Dana Wydner said of Leila. "They were good kids. They were just a normal family."