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Fatal stabbing of girl, 8, prompts manhunt

by JOHN S. MARSHALL Associated Press on April 29, 2013 10:20 AM

SAN FRANCISCO — Residents of a rural northern California county were being told Sunday to keep their doors locked and report anyone considered suspicious as authorities continued the search for the killer of an 8-year-old girl.

Calaveras County deputies and law enforcement officials from neighboring counties, as well as California Highway Patrol officers and members of the California Department of Justice, were looking for a suspect after Leila Fowler was found stabbed in her Valley Springs home around noon Saturday.

The girl was found by her brother — reported by local media to be 12 years old — after he encountered a male intruder in the home.

When the intruder ran away, the boy found his sister stabbed.

She was pronounced dead at a local hospital, officials said.

Initially, Leila was reported as being 9 years old, but Coroner Kevin Raggio said Sunday that she would have turned 9 in June.

Authorities spent Saturday night and into Sunday conducting a door-to-door sweep of homes scattered across hilly terrain, checking storage sheds and horse stables, and even searching attics.

“It is a difficult area to search, it’s rural, remote,” sheriff’s Capt. Jim Macedo said.

Reverse 911 calls and Nixle mass notifications alerted area residents about the incident and the search for the suspect, officials said.

“I was working on my tractor and a CHP copter kept flying over my house,” area resident Roger Ballew, 35, told The Associated Press on Sunday.

A SWAT team showed up at his house Saturday night and told him to stay inside, Ballew said.

“It was nerve-wracking, I didn’t sleep well,” he said.

Investigators on Sunday were interviewing several people, but no suspects had been named by late afternoon.

Investigators were checking out tips that had come into the sheriff’s office, including leads and tips that came from outside Calaveras County, officials said.

The station reported that a neighbor told police that a man was running from the girl’s home after the incident.

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