CALAVERAS COUNTY — Detectives are down to one witness in the slaying of 8-year-old Leila Fowler, who was fatally stabbed last week in her Rancho Calaveras home.
Authorities have reported that Leila's 12-year-old brother saw the attacker flee from the family's Rippon Drive home and that a man and a woman on Rippon Drive also saw the attacker in their hilly, rural neighborhood.
But the woman recanted her statements Wednesday, and Calaveras County sheriff's Sgt. Chris Hewitt said Friday that authorities have determined the man did not see the attacker, but someone else.
Hewitt said detectives continue to follow up on leads, and the investigation is not at a standstill.
"There might have been other people out there who might have seen something, and we're trying to find them or have them come forward," he said.
He said investigators continue to canvass the neighborhood and search the Fowler home for evidence. He said several knives from the home were sent to a state crime lab for testing. Hewitt said analyzing the knives is good police work and does not necessarily mean they were used in the slaying.
Hewitt said Leila's 12-year-old brother and other family members are witnesses, not suspects. He said the family is staying with relatives or friends outside the area.
Leila was fatally stabbed April 27 about noon in her home. Her brother was home. Their parents were at a youth baseball game. Leila's brother said he came across the assailant, who fled, and then discovered his sister.
The Sheriff's Department's more than 50 sworn officers have had their days off and vacations canceled since the slaying so the department could devote as many officers as possible to the case.
Hewitt said the department will begin giving officers a day off starting this weekend so they can rest. The Fowler home remains a crime scene and closed to the family and others.
The Sheriff's Department asks anyone with information to call (209) 754-6030 or (866) 602-7463. The assailant has been described as a non-Latino white or Latino man, 6 feet tall, muscular and with shoulder-length, possibly gray hair.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.