(VALLEY SPRINGS, Calif.) — Neighbors of 8-year-old Leila Fowler said they feared all along that her brother—not a mystery man the boy named—might be responsible for the girl’s stabbing death. Community members are both relieved and saddened by news of the arrest of the boy over the weekend.
On April 27, Leila’s 12-year-old brother, who has not been identified since he is a minor, told Valley Springs, Calif., authorities he found his sister stabbed to death after an intruder broke into their home.
The 12-year-old said he called his parents, who alerted sheriff’s deputies. The boy told authorities the intruder, who he described as a tall man with a muscular build, fled the scene. The boy’s description launched a 15-day manhunt that included door-to-door searches and divers in a reservoir.
Barbara Barron, who lives two doors down from Leila Fowler’s home, said she suspected the brother from the beginning and found it unusual that he allegedly called his parents before calling police when he discovered his sister.
“It made us sadder because he’s just 12 years old,” Barron told ABC News. “The family has lost two children now.”
She described the neighborhood as “really quiet” and “very somber.”
“Everybody speculates and everybody said this and that, but I just prayed,” Mary Gallagher, a friend of the Fowler grandparents, told ABC News’ Sacramento affiliate KXTV. “I prayed it wasn’t him.”
Neighbors say they have not seen Leila’s family since her death, but Leila’s grandfather said the family is struggling.
“I don’t know what to think. They had been trying to make a case for awhile now,” grandfather Dennis Fowler told KXTV. “It’s been really hard on the family.”
The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office in Northern California announced the arrest of the 12-year-old boy late Saturday. He is expected to be charged with homicide.
Authorities initially said Leila’s brother was not a suspect, but acknowledged they were continuing to talk with him.
Authorities have not said what led to the arrest the 12-year-old boy on Saturday.
After a tense two weeks, Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz said he hoped the arrest would bring some peace of mind to a community that has been on edge.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Eli Watkins, CNN
Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN