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Suspect pleads not guilty

A 12-year-old Valley Springs boy charged in the stabbing death of his younger sister pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Calaveras County Superior Court.

The District Attorney’s Office has charged the boy with second-degree murder in the death of 8-year-old Leila Fowler, with a special allegation for use of a dangerous weapon.

The boy arrived at the courthouse dressed in a taupe button-up shirt, with a hood covering his face as he was escorted into the building.

Family members were seated behind him in Judge John E. Martin’s courtroom.

The boy was also scheduled to have a detention hearing to determine whether he must remain in custody during proceedings, but his attorneys did not make a request for his release.

Defense attorneys Mark Reichel and Steve Plesser, of Sacramento, said the Fowler family was in the process of moving homes when Leila was killed and does not yet have a stable living environment. 

The attorneys said they will not ask the court to release the boy until the family is settled and a coherent release plan can be presented.

The boy is being held at a juvenile detention facility in Placerville.

His father’s fiancee, Crystal Walters, covered her eyes and cried when she learned the detention hearing would be continued.

The boy is scheduled to return to court July 31 to set a date for his jurisdictional hearing, at which a judge will determine if he is guilty of the charges. 

The boy agreed to waive his right to a speedy jurisdictional hearing.

Reichel said Wednesday it was too early to answer questions about the evidence because of the nature of the case and the stage he and Plesser are at in the process. 

Reichel said they have not received all of the evidence from the District Attorney’s Office.

Plesser said they had 47 CDs filled with information to sift through and received a “large amount” of additional materials Wednesday.

Reichel said he would not comment on his and Plesser’s defense strategies. 

“Our view of the case hasn’t changed,” Reichel said. “We got in believing our client was innocent and, as we stand here today, that’s what we believe.”

Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department detectives arrested Leila’s brother on a charge of murder May 11 at the sheriff’s Valley Springs substation following a two-week investigation. 

He appeared in court for arraignment and a detention hearing May 15, but the matters were continued to give defense attorneys more time to review evidence.

Leila was found with multiple stab wounds in her home on the 5600 block of Rippon Road in Valley Springs on April 27.

The children’s father, Barney Fowler, and his fiancee, Crystal Walters, were at a baseball game nearby. Walters dialed 911 about noon after receiving a call from the boy, who was home alone with Leila. The boy said an intruder was in the home.

Leila was taken by ambulance to Mark Twain Medical Center where she was pronounced dead about 1 p.m.


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