Law enforcement officers on Wednesday shared some new information on the investigation into the weekend slaying of 8-year-old Leila Fowler.
Investigators returned to Leila’s home on the 5600 block of Rippon Road in Valley Springs, where she was found stabbed, to search for more evidence.
Additionally, a Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office detective obtained DNA evidence Wednesday from the Placerville Police Department and transported it to a California Department of Justice crime lab.
The Sheriff’s Office asked Placerville police to collect DNA from a man who allegedly tried to kidnap a 15-month-old girl from her home. The evidence will be compared with DNA collected from Leila’s home.
Calaveras County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Hewitt said the man, Jason Wayrynen, 42, whose last known address was in Camino, does not entirely match the description of Leila’s killer, but the Sheriff’s Office is investigating him due to the nature of the crime and proximity of Placerville to Valley Springs. The towns are about 50 miles apart.
Hewitt said Wednesday he was not sure if Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office detectives will interview Wayrynen or present him in a lineup to Leila’s 12-year-old brother, who saw Leila’s killer and found her stabbed.
Placerville police arrested Wayrynen on kidnapping and burglary charges Tuesday morning, after he allegedly followed a woman into her apartment on the 2800 block of Schnell School Road and “forcibly” took the child from her, police said.
He remained in custody at El Dorado County Jail on Wednesday afternoon, with bail set at $500,000.
Hewitt also said Wednesday that the Sheriff’s Office is searching for a “qualified” artist to create a sketch, which has been delayed due to inconsistencies in suspect descriptions provided by Leila’s brother and area residents.
The Sheriff’s Office is looking for a man about 6 feet tall, with shoulder-length gray hair and a muscular build. He was seen wearing a long-sleeved black shirt and blue pants.
Hewitt also announced Wednesday that the Stanislaus Area Crime Stoppers group has offered its assistance in collecting and filtering tips related to the homicide.
People with information can continue to call the original tip line at 754-6030 or the Crime Stoppers hotline at 866-389-7638.
Hewitt said the Sheriff’s Office tip line that was set up for the case has generated an average of 60 tips per day.
Other outside agencies were still assisting the Sheriff’s Office with its investigation Wednesday, including the state’s parole division and Department of Justice.
Hewitt said the Sheriff’s Office is still in contact with the FBI, but it has not been determined how or if the bureau will provide assistance.
Hewitt said an out-of-state psychic also offered to help with the investigation, but he didn’t go into details.
The Calaveras County Probation Department was the only local agency that assisted Wednesday.
According to Hewitt, all registered sex offenders and parolees in the Valley Springs area have been contacted and many, if not all, have been ruled out.
Hewitt said it is hard to say at what point a murder becomes a cold case, when leads run out and the investigation stalls until new evidence surfaces.
“Right now, it’s a very active case,” he said. “Our detectives are working 16- to 18-hour days.”
He said the Sheriff’s Office has placed other cases aside and will continue actively investigating the murder until detectives stop receiving tips, and there is no evidence left to collect or people to interview.
The crime was reported about 12:15 p.m. Saturday, when Leila’s parents phoned 911 dispatchers, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The parents were at a baseball game when their 12-year-old son called to tell them an intruder was in their home, Sheriff’s Capt. Jim Macedo said.
The boy briefly pursued the intruder, who then fled the home, Macedo said.
When the boy went to check on Leila, who had been in a different room, he found she had been stabbed.
Dispatchers then called the boy at home, but details of the conversation are not being released.
Several sheriff’s deputies arrived at the home along with emergency responders. A California Highway Patrol helicopter flew from Sacramento to Valley Springs to search for the intruder.
Leila was taken to Mark Twain Medical Center in San Andreas, where she was pronounced dead at 1:01 p.m., according to Calaveras County Coroner Kevin Raggio.
Hewitt said he did not believe the Sheriff’s Office was able to get a statement from Leila before she died.
Raggio said she died of shock and hemorrhage due to multiple stab wounds. He would not disclose how many times she had been stabbed.
Hewitt said “several” knives have been recovered from the house but was not sure if they belonged to the family or the intruder. He declined to comment on the types of knives and where in the home they were found.
Hewitt would also not disclose where fingerprints and DNA evidence were found or what the DNA evidence is.
Hewitt said there were no signs that the homicide happened in the course of a robbery or burglary.
Raggio said a rape kit was used on Leila at the hospital but declined to reveal results.
When asked if it is standard procedure to conduct such a rape test on an attack victim, he responded, “not necessarily.”
The Sheriff’s Office has not stated whether Leila was sexually assaulted.
The Union Democrat is now online in a Replica E-edition form and publishes Tuesday through Saturday. E-Edition or Print Plus subscribers have full access.
If you are not a current subscriber, subscribe today for immediate access. Circulation: 209-533-3614
Weekly Arts and entertainment guide for Calaveras and Tuolumne counties