Leila Fowler’s 12-year-old brother was arrested for her murder on Saturday, according to the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department in San Andreas, Calif. The 8-year-old Valley Springs girl was stabbed multiple times in her Northern California home on April 27 and later succumbed to her wounds in the hospital.
Leila had been home with her brother, whose name isn’t being released because of his age and apparent involvement in the killing, when he called 911 claiming an intruder came in and murdered his sister. The preteen described the alleged assailant as being muscular, around 6 feet tall, with scraggly gray hair.
Police searched the area, scanning the terrain, looking in homes and accounting for local registered sex offenders and parolees, but no trace of the man described by the brother could be found. A neighbor who verified the boy’s description of the assailant soon recanted her statement and was deemed to be an unreliable witness. All evidence appeared to point to the brother, who told authorities the murderer ran away once the boy saw him in the home.
The rural community was shocked by the murder, forcing the 7,500 residents to lock their doors for the first time in years. But they didn’t have to worry for long. Police reassured residents there wasn’t a deadly predator in their midst randomly targeting victims -- Leila’s killer was her own brother, they now believe.
“Citizens of Calaveras County can sleep a little better tonight,” county Sheriff Gary Kuntz told reporters at a press conference Saturday. He added there is DNA and fingerprint evidence involved in the criminal case, but he didn’t say whether it incriminated the 12-year-old. He also did not mention where the alleged killer is being held or when he will appear in court.
At a vigil held for Leila Fowler three days after her death, her brother joined other family members in speaking about his late sister. “I’m not saying goodbye to Leila,” People magazine quoted the boy as saying. “I’m saying, ‘See you later.’ There are no goodbyes.”