Barney Fowler testified Friday about the day more than five years ago when was holding his 8-year-old daughter Leila in his arms, he could see wounds on her chest, he lifted her shirt up, and he saw blood seeping out of her chest.
He leaned over to give her a kiss but he wasn’t sure at that moment if she was alive or dead, Fowler said on the witness stand in San Andreas. It was the second day in Calaveras County Superior Court for the retrial of his son, Isiah Fowler, who is accused of fatally stabbing Leila at their Valley Springs home in April 2013.
“One of her arms dangled down and I had to pull it back up,” Barney Fowler said. “She felt light. It was adrenaline.”
Evidence would later show Leila Fowler was stabbed more than 20 times. She was taken by ambulance to Mark Twain Hospital in San Andreas, where she was pronounced dead.
Isiah was 12 when the murder of his sister occurred. He and Leila were home alone while their parents and siblings were at a ballfield nearby. He’s maintained ever since that he was in a hallway bathroom when he heard a ruckus from his sister’s bedroom, cracked the door, and saw an intruder striking Leila before the 6-foot-tall man with a muscular build and shoulder-length gray hair ran out a back door.
“He yelled ‘He’s hitting her!’” Isiah’s stepmother, Crystal Fowler, testified Friday, recounting one of the cell phone calls she received from Isiah on the day Leila was killed.
“His voice was shaky and broken,” Crystal Fowler said from the witness stand. “He was crying. I yelled to Barney ‘We have to go!’ We were speeding driving home. Isiah was talking to the 911 operator. He was still trembling.”
No one ever found that 6-foot-tall muscular intruder with gray hair. Isiah’s been held in secure juvenile facilities since his arrest by the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office in May 2013. His second-degree murder conviction was overturned by three appeals court judges in February this year.
Isiah Fowler, now 17, appeared Friday in San Andreas before Judge Susan C. Harlan. He came into court in a blue short-sleeved shirt, dark pants and white shoes, with his hair in a ponytail, escorted by an officer wearing a black vest with the yellow words “Probation” on the front and back. He sat between his defense attorney and a defense investigator, with his back to family members and supporters who sat directly behind him in the courtroom.
Dana Pfeil, the prosecutor, Mark Reichel, the defense attorney, have submitted most of the testimony from Isiah’s first trial to Harlan.
Pfeil, flanked throughout proceedings Friday and Wednesday earlier this week by District Attorney Barbara Yook, has not publicly brought out a motive for why young Isiah would suddenly kill his younger sister.
There was speculation Friday among the defense team that prosecutors may focus on a broken picture frame found on the floor in the Fowler home as evidence of a dispute between Isiah and Leila on the day of the murder. Yook said Wednesday Pfeil cannot comment on a pending case.
On Friday, Reichel called three witnesses: a paramedic, Crystal Fowler and Barney Fowler.
The paramedic, Aaron J. Adams, testified he is employed by Cal Fire in Belmont. Back in April 2013, he was employed by American Legion Ambulance as a paramedic intern and stationed off Mountain Ranch Road when he and a partner were called to the Fowler home in Valley Springs.
According to a three-page patient care report, Adams and his partner arrived at the crime scene to find Leila on the front porch of the house with multiple stab wounds and cardiopulmonary resuscitation in progress by fire personnel. A deputy said he had carried Leila outside to start CPR before firefighters arrived.
Adams testified he had to initiate advanced life support steps while CPR efforts continued on Leila, including an intraosseous infusion injection needle into her right leg below the knee.
Touching, grabbing and gripping Leila’s extremities as he tried to help save her life, Adams said Leila’s skin was warm to the touch but he did not believe her life could be saved. At 8 years old, she likely had a total blood volume of 2.5 liters and it appeared she had already lost too much blood to survive.
“I had the opinion this would not be a viable save,” Adams said. “I did not think I’d be able to bring her back. . . . Any child does not have much blood volume, not like an adult.”
Adams and his partner rushed Leila to Mark Twain Hospital minutes later.
Crystal Fowler testified Isiah was holding a phone in one hand and a bat in the other when she and Barney Fowler arrived in a frantic rush at their home, responding to Isiah’s earlier call about an intruder in the home hurting Leila.
“Isiah was shaking in his body,” Crystal Fowler said. “He was sobbing and shaking. He was terrified. He looked like he didn’t understand what we were saying. I’d never seen him like that.”
Barney Fowler was yelling and Crystal Fowler said she had an arm on Isiah in comfort, she hugged him several times, and she didn’t notice any blood on Isiah’s hands or arms, or the phone that he used to speak to the 911 operator.
Crystal Fowler said she went to get Leila’s favorite teddy bear so she would have it at the hospital. She went toward Leila’s room and saw blood on a bed and turned around and walked out.
Later, Crystal Fowler said she had blood on her hands from touching Barney Fowler, who had blood on himself from carrying Leila.
“We arrived at the hospital, told them our daughter had come in an ambulance,” Crystal Fowler said, her voice cracking. “They sent us to a triage area and a doctor and two nurses told us she didn’t make it.”
Crystal Fowler said she and Barney Fowler and other family members see Isiah every week at the California Youth Authority facility where he is held. Before Isiah’s conviction in October 2015 they visited him twice a week at an El Dorado juvenile facility.
Over time, Crystal Fowler said, she and other family members never saw or felt any indication Isiah killed his sister.
“We’ve asked him,” Crystal Fowler said. “We’ve asked him what he remembers.”
Later outside the courtroom, when Friday’s proceedings were finished, Barney Fowler said he believes Isiah is innocent.
“If my son did it, prove it,” Barney Fowler said. “What I want is clarity.”
All the Fowler family wants is the truth, Crystal Fowler said outside the courthouse on Government Center Drive.
“If you took our 12-year-old son and you believe he’s guilty, prove it because we don’t believe it,” Crystal Fowler said. “The proof is not there.”
Barney Fowler said as he and Crystal walked away, “There’s too many holes in their story.”
The retrial of Isiah Fowler resumes Wednesday in San Andreas.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.