12-year-old accused of killing sister appears in court


The boy's family members cried, although he did not appear to. He did talk with his attorney, but mostly looked at the judge, who very carefully went through the charges, taking his time, making sure the pre-teenager understood exactly what he's facing.

A stoic Barney Fowler, his fiancée and other family members left a San Andreas courtroom moments after Fowler's 12-year-old son made his first court appearance, charged with killing his 8-year-old sister, Leila.

"This is a good family and like any good family, this is extremely problematic for them," Mark Reichel, one of the boy's attorneys, said. "I can tell you, they love all of their children, like any good family, they love all of their children."

The boy is charged with felony murder and a special enhancement, using a deadly weapon, in this case a knife, to stab his sister repeatedly.

The day Leila was killed, the boy told his father and police that he found a stranger in their home and his sister injured.

The boy's initial call to his dad's fiancée did not seem to indicate the seriousness of the situation. Krystal Walters called 911, saying, "My children are home alone and a man just ran from the house."

The brother appeared with his family at a community vigil three days after the murder. He wasn't arrested until two weeks after Leila's death.

"How could a 12-year-old commit an offense like this in such a way that would not lead to an immediate arrest," Steve Plesser, one of the boy's attorneys, asked. "That would take 2,000 hours of law enforcement resources and FBI resources before they felt that it pointed toward him."

In court, the boy nodded and answered "yes" to a series of questions from the judge about whether he understood the process and the charges against him.

"My client is holding up really well under really difficult circumstances," Reichel said.

The boy did not enter a plea Wednesday.

The judge pointed out that if he were an adult, and convicted of these charges, he would face 16 years to life in prison. As a juvenile under California law he must be released at age 23.

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