Search for murder clues continues

Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat

Dive recovery teams today will continue searching a two-acre pond for evidence linked to the murder of 8-year-old Valley Springs girl Leila Fowler.

Divers from the Calaveras and Stanislaus county sheriff's departments on Tuesday began searching a pond near the Rippon Road home where Leila was found stabbed more than a week ago.

It will mark the third dive operation since teams probed a smaller pond nearby on Sunday.

FBI crime dogs trained in tracking blood have been scouting the crime scene since they were flown into Calaveras County from Washington, D.C., on Monday.

Law enforcement officials are not sure how long the dogs will be used to survey the scene.

The Calaveras County Sheriff's Office has not released whether the divers and bloodhounds have found any evidence.

Asked what investigators were hoping to find in the water, Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Chris Hewitt said searching the ponds is one of many steps in the investigation.

He said the Sheriff's Office wants to be "thorough" and "meticulous" in its investigation and ensure the case can eventually stand in court.

The Sheriff's Office has also been compiling and analyzing statements obtained by area residents over the weekend.

Law enforcement officials conducted a canvass of the neighborhood surrounding the home on the 5600 block of Rippon Road, interviewing about 300 people in hopes of obtaining new leads.

The Sheriff's Office has also received results from evidence sent to a California Department of Justice crime lab for analysis. Hewitt described the results as "helpful to the case" but declined to go into detail.

The crime occurred April 27. Leila's 12-year-old brother reported finding Leila stabbed by an intruder about noon.

He described the intruder as about 6 feet tall and muscular, with shoulder-length gray hair.

The children's parents were at a Little League baseball game nearby when the attack occurred.

Calaveras County Coroner Kevin Raggio reported Leila was stabbed multiple times and was pronounced dead at Mark Twain Medical Center about 1 p.m.

The Sheriff's Office has said several knives were found in the house but has not said if any was the murder weapon.

The Union Democrat
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