A disturbing murder has left a California town on lockdown. Eight year-old Leila Fowler was stabbed to death by an intruder on Monday in her home in Valley Springs, California. The suspect got away even after being spotted and confronted by her 12 year-old brother. Authorities said that eyewitnesses later testified to a man, fitting the description given by her brother, fleeing the scene of the crime.
In a press conference following the crime, police identified her father as Barney Fowler and mother as Krystal Walters. The parents were attending a Little League game when they were alerted by their older son to the horrific scene unfolding at home. Although they declined to speak a spokesperson for the family conveyed their wishes for a memorial fund to be set up in memory of their daughter. They also stressed their wishes for privacy in the painful matter.
Crime is very rare in Calaveras County. According to one law enforcement officer, the last violent crime that occurred in the town of 7,400 was around five years ago. Even so, the town is taking immediate precautions. Parents are taking off work to keep a special eye on their children. According to the AP, one such resident said, “ I told my work I’m not coming in, and I’m just going to have all of my kids’ friends at the house until this is over.”
Citizens are going to great lengths to feel safe. Some are even taking up arms, with one resident saying, “My husband wanted me to put one in my car so I’d have it in my hand when I entered the house.” Tabatha Camden, according to CBS news, also added “We’ve always had one gun loaded in the house at all times, but now we have four.” This echoes a growing sentiment in the country, where those who support the second amendment feel that their gun rights will soon be taken away in reaction to the Newtown tragedy.
Many parents have taken a less aggressive stance, offering to volunteer at schools to keep a special eye as well. Faculty are taking steps to address the situation head on by having Leila’s classmates write letters of remembrance of her most cherished qualities. Two therapy dogs and ten counselors are also on hand to aid in the grieving process.
Meanwhile, a manhunt is on in both Calaveras and its surrounding counties. The only description of the suspect is that he had long gray hair and fled on foot. The Sherriff’s department says that investigators have collected fingerprints and DNA from the victim’s home. A vigil is planned for Tuesday night.