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  • Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

    Teacher Cecilia Richardson helps a student tie a ribbon on a fence at Jenny Lind Elementary School in Valley Springs. Eight-year-old Leila Fowler, who was found slain April 27, attended the school.

  • Leila Fowler

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Divers search pond as investigation of girl's killing continues

Published: Wednesday, May. 8, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2B
Last Modified: Thursday, May. 16, 2013 - 10:21 am

VALLEY SPRINGS – Authorities continued their search for clues into the killing of 8-year-old Leila Fowler, nearly two weeks after she was found stabbed to death in her home.

The Calaveras County Sheriff's Office remained tight-lipped Tuesday, after announcing during a Monday news conference that it was close to solving the case.

"We're making real progress," Sheriff Gary Kuntz told reporters.

On Tuesday, deputies and FBI agents were seen loading unidentified materials from the residence into a waiting truck.

"Two dive teams are searching a pond a couple streets over," Sgt. Chris Hewitt, the sheriff's spokesman, told The Bee. "The FBI brought in dogs that can sniff blood. Beyond that, I can't discuss any details."

Leila's body was found by her 12-year-old brother April 27.

The brother told police he saw a tall man with gray, long hair leaving the house. A witness, who reported seeing the same man, has since recanted her statement, authorities said.

Ten days after the killing, the house where Leila lived with her father, stepmother and three siblings remains an active crime scene, with authorities maintaining an around-the-clock roadblock on Rippon Road.

"Nobody is being allowed in except for law enforcement and residents," said Josh Hawkins, California Highway Patrol officer, who was manning the checkpoint at the intersection of Hartvickson Lane and Rippon Road.

Curious onlookers craned their necks, hoping to get a glimpse of the house. News crews drove around in trucks searching for the best camera angle.

"The local paper reported that the investigation was almost complete," said Steven Kobbi, who lives a mile away. "Everybody is still in a state of shock. People are worried."

The Sheriff's Office canceled a planned news briefing Tuesday, because there "wasn't any new information," Hewitt said.

"When we have substantial new information, we'll call a press conference," he said. "It could be this week, but I can't say. I don't have a crystal ball in front of me."

A mile away from the crime scene at the makeshift command center, deputies were hard at work, but they were not releasing any information.

Sheriff's officials said there is a department gag order in effect for the investigation.

Meanwhile, hundreds gathered Tuesday for a private funeral service at Park View Cemetery in Manteca for Leila.

Call The Bee's Richard Chang, (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.

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