Calaveras family's troubles detailed in court records

The Record (Stockton)May 26, 2013 

— Even before April 27, when 8-year-old Leila Fowler was fatally stabbed in her home near Valley Springs, the Fowler family had troubles.

Leila's 12-year-old brother has been charged with murder in her death.

Although the adults in the Fowler family have said little publicly, court records show it was a household that struggled financially and combined five children born to at least three mothers.

"I juggle month-to-month to get by," Barney Fowler, 37, the head of the household and father of the five children living there, wrote in an April 19 document in which he asked ex-wife Shirley Fowler to pay child support for their 14-year-old daughter, Alexis.

Court documents, birth announcements and other records show that Barney Fowler is the father to at least seven children born to at least four women, including a 2-year-old child living with its mother in Idaho.

Child support disputes are not the only reason Fowler has appeared in court. He pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of second- degree burglary on July 16, 2009, for breaking into a storage unit.

According to San Joaquin County sheriff's reports, Fowler went to Storage Max in French Camp, where he rents a unit, on Dec. 30, 2008. Rather than going to his rental, he drove to another unit, broke its hinge and lock, and opened it.

Fowler told deputies he broke into the storage unit to take property because the owner of that unit owed him money, reports say.

Fowler, who was listed as living in Stockton at the time, was convicted in San Joaquin County Superior Court and ordered to pay $300 in restitution. He was sentenced to three days in jail.

Court files show sources of particular stress, if not heartbreak, for Leila and the 12-year-old brother charged with killing her.

The file for a child support dispute between Barney Fowler and Priscilla Rodriguez, the mother of Leila and her 12-year-old brother, indicates that she rarely saw the children for years at a time, has sometimes been homeless and survives on a tiny monthly disability check.

In 2012, Barney Fowler wrote that "there has only been one attempt by Priscilla to see the kids in the last 3-4 years, which I allowed her to see them. It was by her choice a 10-15 minute visit Feb. 2011. No other attempts have been made. Her number was changed and she moved."

Rodriguez acknowledged in her written statement to the court in 2012 that she had not seen her children much, but gave a different explanation.

"When I was no longer able to give money to Barney Fowler he then would not let me speak to the children any more," she wrote. "I am on SSI (disability) and barely able to survive. I am homeless right now when I was giving him money last year I was going without food for myself. I am not trying to avoid helping my children financially but at this point I am unable to give him anything. I am constantly looking for work to help. I only wish to be able to speak with and see my children."

Child support complications

Documents indicate that Rodriguez receives $533 a month in disability. A court in August of last year ordered her to pay $114 a month to Fowler.

In May 2012, a judge ordered Fowler to seek employment so he'd be able to pay child support to Kimberley Claire Kitto of Pocatello, Idaho, the mother of his son, Ogden James Kitto-Fowler, born in 2010.

More recent documents indicate that since last year, Fowler has been working as a boat mechanic at Pacific Boat Services in Lodi and that he has been paying Kitto $282 a month in child support.

A representative of Pacific Boat Works did not return a call Thursday asking about Fowler's employment status there.

Fowler's ex-wife, Shirley Fowler, reached at her job in Lodi on Thursday, declined to discuss the family's history.

"I am not going to give out any information," Shirley Fowler said. "This is for the sake of the family."

Barney Fowler's request that Shirley Fowler pay him $566 a month in child support is scheduled for a hearing in Calaveras Superior Court on June 5.

Thursday, a truck and trailer left the Rippon Road home, apparently moving family possessions to a new location.

It was not clear how long the Fowler family had lived at the home. A neighbor reported that they were there last summer, but court documents filed by Barney Fowler last summer used an address on Oak Glen Drive near Jenny Lind.

A search of public records found that it was Crystal Walters, 33, sometimes described as Fowler's fiancée or the stepmother to Leila and her brother, who was associated with the Rippon Road address.

A close relative who answered the phone at the home on South Wagner Avenue in Stockton where Walters formerly lived declined to discuss the family's history.

"Right now, I really don't want to talk about it," said Robin Walters.

Leila's 12-year-old brother, meanwhile, remains in a juvenile lockup, awaiting a May 29 court date at which he might enter a plea to the murder charge.

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