Witness in Calaveras County girl's death recants statements

kvaline@modbee.comMay 2, 2013 

    alternate text Kevin Valine
    Title: Reporter
    Coverage areas: City of Modesto and nonprofits
    Bio: Kevin Valine has been a copy editor and reporter at The Bee since January 2006. He's worked at the Reno Gazette-Journal, Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune and Paradise Post as a reporter and copy editor. He's a graduate of San Jose State.
    Recent stories written by Kevin
    E-mail: kvaline@modbee.com

— The Calaveras County Sheriff's Department said one of the three witnesses who reported seeing a man fleeing near the Rancho Calaveras home where 8-year-old Leila Fowler was fatally stabbed Saturday has recanted her statements.

But the Sheriff's Department said Thursday this is not a setback. Investigators said it helps them narrow the scope of their investigation. The woman had said she saw the intruder running in the opposite direction from the one Leila's 12-year-old brother has provided investigators. A third witness also has reported seeing a man running near the Fowler home.

Detectives and a sketch artist met with the woman Wednesday to get her help in developing a composite sketch of the intruder.

The woman recanted her previous statements and the identification of the intruder she had provided, according to a Sheriff's Department news release. "It's become clear that this witness is no longer credible," the release stated.

Leila was stabbed by an intruder in her Rippon Road home about noon Saturday. Authorities have said her 12-year-old brother was home. He encountered the intruder, who fled on foot, and then discovered his sister had been attacked.

In an email, Sgt. Chris Hewitt, a department spokesman, declined to say whether detectives and the sketch artist have met with the brother and the third witness because that is part of the murder investigation.

Calaveras sheriff's detectives also have determined that it is unlikely that a suspect arrested this week in the Placerville attempted kidnapping of a 15-month-old girl is connected to Leila's murder. But DNA samples of the suspect have been sent to a state crime lab for analysis as a matter of standard police work.

Detectives have spoken with the FBI, which is providing support in the investigation.

The Sheriff's Department asks anyone with information to call (209) 754-6030 or (866) 602-7463. Investigators have received about 300 tips.

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