VALLEY SPRINGS, Calif. — The father of a 12-year-old boy accused of fatally stabbing his 8-year-old sister said on Monday he will believe his son is innocent until he sees evidence that proves otherwise.
Barney Fowler said the family is backing the boy, who was arrested Saturday after a crime that terrified this Central California foothill community.
“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 on April 27 that he encountered an attacker in the family home while his father was attending a Little League game. He described the man as tall with long gray hair.
The boy said the man fled on foot and he found his sister, Leila Fowler, bleeding.
Leila's death set off an intense manhunt in the rural community where some residents had moved to escape big city crime. The Calaveras County Sheriff's Office spent more than 2,000 man-hours amassing evidence.
Residents of the rural community began locking their doors and calling authorities when they thought they saw men who fit the description.
They also held fundraisers for the Fowler family and turned out by the thousands 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.
He echoed comments made earlier Monday by his son, Justin Fowler, 19, who said the family was in shock and extremely sad about the boy's arrest.
“We're just in a fog,” Justin Fowler said.
Rumors began spreading last week around town that the 12-year-old was a suspect. The AP is withholding his name because he is a juvenile.
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