The adult brother of a 12-year-old California boy accused of killing his 8-year-old sister, Leila Fowler, says the family is ``in a fog'' over the boy's arrest.
On Monday, 19-year-old Justin Fowler told The Associated Press that his father and the rest of the family are shocked and saddened by the latest twist in a case that rocked the Central California foothill community of Valley Springs.
Last month's stabbing death of Leila Fowler southeast of Sacramento set off an intense manhunt. Her 12-year-old brother was in the home at the time and told police he saw a man run from the scene. He was arrested over the weekend and was in El Dorado County jail awaiting his arraignment.
The boy appeared at a vigil for his sister, along with Justin, who was photographed with the name "Leila'' written on his forearm. In a separate interview, the boy's mother described him as "protective'' of Leila.
Leila's killing on April 27 in shook the quiet community of Valley Springs and has reverberated throughout the country. Her 12-year-old brother was in the home at the time and told police he saw a man run from the scene.
MORE: Leila Fowler's Brother, 12, Arrested on Homicide Charge
Days later, the boy appeared with his father and stepmother at a vigil for his sister. On Friday, as speculation in the community built that perhaps the boy was involved, his biological mother told a Sacramento television station that her son ``could never hurt his sister.''
"I've never seen him be mean to her,'' said Priscilla Rodriquez.
Less than a day later, police delivered the stunning news: The 12-year-old boy had been arrested and will be charged with homicide. In doing their investigation, police said there was no sign of a burglary or robbery. And authorities seized several knives from the Fowler home, where Leila lived with her father, stepmother and siblings.
Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz s did not explain what caused investigators to determine the boy was a suspect.
For a community still reeling from the killing, the news was another blow.
"It's bad enough to lose a child. I can't imagine losing a child by one of my own children,'' Patti Campbell, a longtime area resident and owner of Campbell's Country Kitchen, told The Associated Press.
Campbell, a resident of the area for 33 years and the operator of the Valley Springs restaurant for 15 of them, said she had served Leila and her family in her restaurant.
"It's just shocking. I don't know what else to say,'' Campbell said.
Other residents in the community of about 7,400 people expressed similar feelings of disbelief.
"I did not want to believe it. You kind of thought so, but it's not something you want to believe,'' resident Tammy Ainsworth told Sacramento's KCRA-TV.
Aaron Plunk, a neighbor of Fowler's, said the arrest was staggering but he could rest easier now. He said he and his family had been extra vigilant about locking windows and doors, even though the street was being closely guarded by deputies.
Calaveras Unified School District Superintendent Mark Campbell said counselors will be available Monday at all schools.
The district "stands ready to provide whatever level of support and assistance is necessary to the Fowler family'' and the community at large, he said Sunday.