VALLEY SPRINGS . (AP) — The parents of an 8-year-old Central California girl who was stabbed to death in her home believed she was fine when they made a 911 call to authorities from another location.
A recording released Tuesday indicates a woman called 911 after getting a call about a mystery intruder from the girl's 12-year-old brother, who was arrested Saturday in connection with the killing.
The caller, who said she was the girl's mother, said the children, including Leila Fowler, were OK. She was not at home at the time.
"My children are at home alone and a man just ran out of our house. My older son was in the bathroom and my daughter started screaming. He came out and a man was in the house," the panicked caller says in the call made April 27. "They said they're OK."
She added, "My daughter is freaking out right now."
In fact, Leila Fowler was dying of stab wounds.
Her brother told police he scared off an intruder. For two weeks, Calaveras County sheriff's investigators searched door to door for witnesses and evidence.
The boy's attorney told The Associated Press that the youngster might have lied about seeing a long-haired man fleeing the scene, but that doesn't make the boy the killer.
Attorney Mark Reichel, who met with the boy Tuesday, said his client might have made up a "macho" story about scaring away the intruder because he was scared.
Reichel said he and his law partner Steve Plesser had not yet seen the evidence against their young client, which is in the hands of the Calaveras County district attorney's office.
A recorded message on the DA office's phone tells callers that officials have not yet made a decision on how or whether the boy will be charged. His first appearance in juvenile court is Wednesday.
Reichel said that after visiting with the boy, he and Plesser met with the family and toured the hillside home where the stabbing took place. Reichel declined to say what they spoke about.
"They're all doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances, and the circumstances are not good," Reichel said.
Reichel said the boy's story about interrupting a long-haired intruder who fled the home sounds like bravado, not an excuse to cover up a killing.
"He's 12. The odds are just as good that he lied and gives a macho story that he chased away the attacker. Someone kills your sister? I'm not sure he didn't stay in the bathroom and cry," Reichel told the AP.
The children's father, Barney Fowler, was at a Little League game, and the siblings were home alone. The boy called his father and his fiancee to report that Leila had been attacked, and the couple called 911 and sped to the home.
Frightened residents locked their doors and loaded weapons, fearing that a random attack had taken place in their midst.
"How does a 12-year-old commit the perfect crime?" said Reichel, whose firm was part of a team that two years ago successfully defended members of the Hmong community, including former Gen. Vang Pao, against charges they plotted to overthrow the government of Laos.
Reichel declined to comment on the emotional state of the boy or his family.
"They're going through a very difficult time," he said.
Barney Fowler spoke briefly with AP on Monday and said, "Until they have the proper evidence to show it's my son, we're standing behind him. If they have the evidence, well that's another story. We're an honest family."
His 19-year-old son Justin described the family as "being in a fog."