VALLEY SPRINGS (CBS13) – The manhunt is over but the questions are just beginning in Valley Springs, where an 8-year-old’s brother is now accused in her murder.
Now some who spent weeks living in fear are angry and confused. The town of 7,600 people is trying to move on, but they are feeling betrayed and lied to. They thought an intruder had killed Leila Fowler, but now efforts to support the victim’s family are ending.
“I was locking my bedroom door,” said one resident.
They did not hesitate to call in tips of those who resembled the man who Fowler’s 12-year-old brother said killed his 8-year-old sister.
“We were walking in between a store and we saw a guy, long gray hair, and we reported him to the CHP because he fit the description,” said resident Jericho Kraigbum.
As neighbors locked up their homes, rally to help was underway. Jim Rebstock and others began reaching out to neighbors, hoping to help ease any financial burdens the family may have in the wake of Fowler’s death.
“We were doing it because we needed to support a family,” he said.
The spaghetti feed and auction was set for next Monday, but when the girl’s brother was arrested — everything changed.
“We started getting calls from people that had bought tickets and were asking for their money back. They were hurt; they were angry,” said Rebstock.
“They do feel betrayed by the parents because they feel like the parents knew all along,” said neighbor Julie Hall.
Detectives are not saying much since the suspect is a minor. So questions about why it took so long to make an arrest and why the community was not told they were safe in their homes may go unanswered for a long time.
Until then, the community will try to move on and let their wounds heal before a new event is hosted for Fowler.
“It hurts because we were trying to do something good,” said Rebstock.
The Calaveras Unified School District Superintendent Mark Campbell issued a statement Sunday saying, “Calaveras Unified School District stands ready to provide whatever level of support and assistance is necessary to the Fowler family, as well as the students, staff, parents and CUSD community.”
The victim’s mother spoke only with CBS13 about the investigation. The interview was conducted just hours before the shocking arrest and announcement.
“My son loved his sister so much,” Priscilla Rodriquez said.
She is the biological mother of the 12-year-old boy accused of killing his sister.
Rodriquez says the two were close.
“I know my son could never hurt his sister. They never used to fight when they were little,” she said.
Rodriquez says a bitter custody battle drove a wedge between her and the children’s father.
“I just hope they find whoever did this to her,” Rodriquez said just one day before Saturday’s shocking announcement. “I know he could never do something like that.”
It is still unknown what evidence was found at the murder scene or what the motive was.
A court hearing for the 12-year-old brother is not being made public because he is a minor.