Father stands by boy, 12, in sister's killing

Published: Tuesday, May. 14, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, May. 16, 2013 - 10:29 am

CALAVERAS COUNTY – The father of a 12-year-old boy arrested in the fatal stabbing of his 8-year-old sister said Monday he believes his son is innocent until he is shown evidence that proves otherwise.

Valley Springs resident Barney Fowler said the family is standing behind the boy, who was arrested Saturday in the April 27 slaying of his sister in the family's home in the rural, hilly Rancho Calaveras subdivision.

"Until they have the proper evidence to show it's my son, we're standing behind him," Fowler said. "If they have the evidence, well, that's another story. We're an honest family."

The boy told investigators April 27 that he encountered an attacker in the family home.

He described the man as being tall, with long, gray hair. The boy said the man fled and he found his sister, Leila Fowler, bleeding.

In the two weeks after Leila Fowler was fatally stabbed, Rancho Calaveras residents were on edge, locking their doors and windows and in some cases carrying loaded firearms as the killer remained free.

They also held fundraisers for the Fowler family, and more than 1,000 turned out for a candlelight vigil in Leila's honor.

"We're thankful to the community and all they've done for my daughter," Barney Fowler said.

The Calaveras County Probation Department and District Attorney's Office did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment Monday. But at some point in the day, the District Attorney's Office left a message on its main phone line stating that prosecutors have not yet received all of the police reports in the case and won't make a decision on filing charges until they have reviewed all of the reports.

If charges are filed against Leila's brother, his case will be heard in juvenile court.

Children must be at least 14 for prosecutors to have the option of trying them as adults, said Randy Fischer, one of the two Stanislaus County prosecutors assigned to juvenile cases.

A preteen homicide defendant is highly unusual, said California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Bill Sessa.

In juvenile court, prosecutors file petitions, which contain the charges against a defendant, and the judge holds a jurisdiction hearing to determine whether the defendant committed the crime. The judge has to determine guilt with the same standard used in criminal court, beyond a reasonable doubt.

If a juvenile court judge determines the 12-year-old brother killed Leila, Sessa said, the judge could put the boy under the care of the Division of Juvenile Justice until the age of 23. But it's rare to send a child that young to the DJJ. The judge also could send the boy to a group home or a county program for youthful offenders.

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