It took 15 days and more than 2,000 hours of investigation before officials gave the children's mother, Priscilla Rodriquez, the terrible news that not only is her only daughter dead, but that the 8-year-old may have been killed by her own brother. It's news that's cast a pall over Mother's Day in this community.
"I can't even begin to imagine what his mom is going through, or his step-mom," Valley Springs resident Sandra Huckaby said. "It's a terrible tragedy."
Huckaby is talking about the 12-year-old brother of Leila Fowler who was arrested yesterday for the stabbing death of his 8-year-old sister.The news shocked this community.
The young girl was found stabbed multiple times in the family home on Rippon Road. A small memorial to her sits across the road decorated with purple ribbons. Rodriquez, who lost her only daughter, is still trying to make sense of this tragedy.
"I can't understand how could this happen," she said. "I'm still having a really hard time grasping that she's gone, I can't accept it, this doesn't happen."
Calaveras Unified School District Superintendent Mark Campbell said counselors will be available Monday at all schools.
The district "stands ready to provide whatever level of support and assistance is necessary to the Fowler family" and the community at large, he said Sunday.
Police released no information about what led them to arrest the unidentified 12-year-old for the April 27 attack. Following the crime, investigators did a door-to-door sweep of homes, storage sheds and horse stables scattered across the oak-studded hills foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Divers also searched two nearby reservoirs in search of clues.
Leila's brother told police he found his sister's body and encountered an intruder in the home while their parents were at a Little League game. He described the man as tall with long gray hair. A neighbor told detectives she saw a man flee the home, but she later recanted the story.
Police said there was no sign of a burglary or robbery. As part of the investigation, authorities seized several knives from the Fowler home, where Leila lived with her father, stepmother and siblings.
"I know my son has always been protective of his sister, I just don't know," Rodriquez said.
Mothers we spoke to on this Mother's Day say they can't imagine what Rodriguez is going through.
"It saddened me and my whole family," Valley Springs resident Brenda Smith said. "It's an awful thing. We feel really, especially sad on this Mother's Day, because a mother's lost her child. One is gone forever and one is in jail, and it's a sad thing."
Fellow Valley Springs resident Sharrivan Heiningen added, "Very sad for our community, very sad for the Fowler family, and we are keeping them in our prayers."
Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz said authorities spent more than 2,000 hours on the investigation before they arrested the boy at 5:10 p.m. Saturday. The 12-year-old will be charged with homicide.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)