Tense California town hunts for 8-year-old's killer

April 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
An all-out police manhunt is underway for the person who murdered a little girl in her home over the weekend. Eight-year-old Leila Fowler was stabbed to death in her home in Valley Springs in Calaveras County.

Leila was found by her 12-year-old brother after he encountered a male intruder in the home. When the intruder ran away, the boy found his sister stabbed. She was pronounced dead at a local hospital, officials said.

The crime has left everyone, especially parents, on edge.

"It's so unsettling not to know who this person is, if this person knows somebody in this area or if it was a random person who ended up in this area, we just don't know," parent Paula Stevens said.

Police have all roads leading to Leila's home blocked at both ends while the continue processing the crime scene and searching for a suspect. The Calaveras County Sheriff's Office has released little information about the killing other than a vague description of a man with long gray hair who fled when the boy confronted him.

At Jenny Lind Elementary School, where Leila was a student, schoolmates made cards and hung purple and pink ribbons in the third-grader's memory -- a young girl known for her bright smile and friendly way.

There was extra security at the school to give parents and students a sense of safety. Counselors were brought in to help everyone deal with their grief.

"The kids are obviously upset," Superintendent Mark Campbell said. "A lot of people are hurting right now. The beauty of them all being here together is that we're able to share, communicate and try to heal as much as possible."

The community is grieving for Leila, but also for her entire family, especially the brother who found her.

"My heart goes out to the parents of course, but I pray to God the little boy will be all right," parent Linette Tillery said.

Valley Springs is a community of about 2,500 people in an unincorporated area of Calaveras County, known as "Gold Country," in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, about 60 miles southeast of Sacramento.

A Memorial Fund has been set up for Leila Fowler at F&M Bank of Central California. Please mail all donations to:
F&M Bank
18836 E. Main Street
Linden, CA 95236
Questions: (209) 887-2299
Routing # 1211 08441
Acct# 421934101

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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