VALLEY SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) — Authorities have arrested the 12-year-old brother of an 8-year-old girl who was mysteriously stabbed to death at her home in a rural Northern California community last month.
The boy, who was not identified, will be charged with homicide, according to Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz.
The April 27 attack on Leila Fowler shook the tightknit Valley Springs community of about 7,400 people and set off a massive manhunt.
The boy had told police he found his sister’s body and encountered an intruder in the home while their parents were at a Little League game. He described the man as being tall with long gray hair. Afterward, however, police said there was no sign of a burglary or robbery at the house.
Local officials began to pledge support Sunday. The Calaveras Unified School District “stands ready to provide whatever level of support and assistance is necessary to the Fowler family” and the community, Superintendent Mark Campbell said in a statement. The district will make counselors available at all schools, he said.
Following the child’s death, investigators did a door-to-door sweep of homes, storage sheds and horse stables scattered across the oak-studded hills foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Divers also searched two nearby reservoirs in search of clues.
As part of the investigation, authorities seized several knives from the Fowler home — where Leila lived with her father, stepmother and siblings. A neighbor who told detectives she saw a man flee the home later recanted the story and was discredited by police.
Leila’s brother was taken into custody at 5:10 p.m. Saturday, and police hastily called a news conference to announce the arrest.
“Citizens of Calaveras County, you can sleep a little better tonight,” Kuntz said.
Authorities spent over 2,000 hours on the investigation “to provide Leila Fowler’s family answers to her death,” the sheriff said.
Kuntz said the investigation was ongoing. He declined to provide further details.
Several days after the killing, hundreds of people gathered at Jenny Lind Elementary School where Leila was a popular third grader. Her mother, Krystal Walters, tearfully thanked the crowd for the support.
“I just want to thank the entire community and all of our family and friends for all the overwhelming amount of support you’ve given our family,” Walters said at the time. “It will never be forgotten. Thank you.”