Authorities step up evidence search

By Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat May 07, 2013 11:30 am

Law enforcement officials continue to investigate the murder of 8-year-old Valley Springs girl Leila Fowler, enlisting the help of dive teams and FBI dogs.

Divers today will search a two-acre pond near the Valley Springs home where Fowler was found stabbed. About 14 divers searched a smaller pond Sunday.


Additionally, FBI crime dogs trained in tracking blood arrived in Calaveras County from Washington, D.C., on Monday and will scout the crime scene this week.

The efforts follow a weekend canvass of the neighborhood surrounding the home on the 5600 block of Rippon Road, in which law enforcement officials interviewed about 300 area residents in hopes of refreshing people’s memories and obtaining new leads.  

Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Chris Hewitt said Monday that investigators have to compile and analyze the statements obtained Saturday and Sunday. 

Hewitt would not disclose Monday whether the search of the first pond yielded any evidence.

When asked what investigators were hoping to find in the water, 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.

Hewitt said the Sheriff’s Office on Sunday received “good news” regarding evidence sent to a California Department of Justice crime lab for analysis. He declined to provide details to avoid “tainting” the investigation but said the lab results are “helpful to the case.”

Sheriff Gary Kuntz said Monday that detectives are making progress each day.

“We’re very confident that we will be able to solve this case in the near future,” he said.

Hewitt said the Sheriff’s Office is still receiving tips through its tip lines at 754-6030 and 1-866-389-7638.

He said the Sheriff’s Office is still working on a sketch of the killer. The sketch has been delayed due to inconsistencies in descriptions provided by witnesses, one of whom became uncooperative.

A neighbor early on reported seeing a person roughly matching the description provided by Leila’s 12-year-old brother. She told investigators she saw the man fleeing the neighborhood around the time of the murder, but recanted her story late last week.

Hewitt said Monday it was still unknown why the woman recanted her statements, but said she didn’t express fear for her life. 

The 12-year-old boy reported finding Leila stabbed by an intruder about noon April 27. 

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.