Interesting New Case

Much of the time and investigator grinds out the day-to-day work involved in personal injury cases and the like.  Sometimes a really interesting and high-profile case comes in and you just feel the adrenaline start pumping.

That happened yesterday, when I was contacted by Mark Reichel and Steve Plesser of Reichel & Plesser Law (www.reichelplesser.com) to be the investigator in the very tragic stabbing death of 12-year-old Leila Fowler of Valley Springs, California.

For those who have not heard of this case, the violent death of eight year old Leila took place in her home on April 27 of this year.  The only other person at home at the time of her stabbing was her 12-year-old brother.  Her brother called Leila’s father and girlfriend who were attending a Little League baseball game at the time to tell them he saw a man hitting his sister and that he scared the stranger from the house.

When Leila’s father and girlfriend arrived at the house, followed shortly thereafter by the local police, Leila was found still bleeding from 21 stab wounds.  Based an a vague description of the alleged attacker, the area was locked down and search commenced.  The small community situated in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada between Sacramento and Stockton was on high alert.

On Saturday May 10, authorities arrested Leila’s 12-year-old brother and charge him with the murder of his sister.  On Wednesday, May 13, Mark Reichel and Steve Plesser (www.reichelplesser.com) were retained to represent the defendant and I was asked to come on board as their investigator.

This is a very high-profile case, but the nature of my job is no different from it is in any case.  Attorneys don’t like surprises.  Litigation is a minefield of surprises and my job is to clear the mines.  It doesn’t matter if the information I uncover helps or hurts our client’s case.  What matters is that it doesn’t come as mine that Reichel and/or Plesser step on at trial.

This case appears to be a very large minefield and there is a lot of work to be done.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Interesting New Case

  1. NoNwz

    Very large minefield, true. As someone following the case, I’d be interested in knowing who it was that set up that donations bank account first thing Monday morning after the crime, just in time for the ‘hastily called’ press conference. Horrible thought, but yellow flag waving (to me, at least).

    • I don’t know the answer to that question. It was done before attorneys were retained and before I was brought in by the attorneys. All I can tell you is that we aren’t working off any donated funds. Not any funds for that matter.

      • NoNwz

        Thanks for your reply–and commendable that you’d investigate this boy’s involvement au gratis. According to the comments in this Facebook page, there is reportedly about $70,000 collected so far. https://www.facebook.com/groups/181100302045135/?fref=ts

        There is a lot more at stake for this kid, however.

        Sorry to be so long, but I’ve been curious, too, about three separate neighbor accounts:

        1) the neighbor who suddenly recanted her witness statement about seeing a fleeing man – http://www.uniondemocrat.com/News/Local-News/Suspects-ruled-out-in-slaying

        2) the different neighbor (Christy Lawson) who reported seeing the boy’s father “about noon” in a bloody tee shirt at the side of her driveway – http://www.uniondemocrat.com/News/Local-News/Neighborhood-leery-after-Leila-Fowler-killing

        3) neighbor Don Melon who stated he didn’t see anyone flee the home after the stabbing but DID see a man wearing a bloodstained shirt in a white SUV looking for someone who “stabbed his daughter” AFTER seeing emergency vehicles arrive: http://www.calaverasenterprise.com/news/article_f678ab20-befe-11e2-ad13-001a4bcf88&r=/
        (*Article no longer found, though I have the screenshot with what he said on it.)

        **IF Don Melon (neighbor across the street) was out watering his roses with his dogs around noon and had full view of the house, AND saw the emergency vehicles drive up, why didn’t he also see the dad and family drive up to the house in fast response to the boy’s call to them? (They arrived before law enforcement and emergency vehicles, apparently, as the dad reportedly had blood all over his tee due to cradling his dying child…sad that the crime scene was contaminated in the process, though.)

        If the dad’s shirt was bloody, was it the same shirt worn at the ballgame earlier with no blood stains?

        If the dad’s shirt was bloody, wasn’t the boy’s also bloody?

        If the fireplace was used that morning, wouldn’t attentive neighbor Don M. also have seen smoke coming from the chimney?

      • Some of you have asked some questions about the case that I can answer. The alleged $70,000.00 in donations to the Fowler family is not one of those questions because I have no knowledge of the existence of such a fund or how much may have been collected. The reference to that amount that appeared on the Valley Springs Fundraising Facebook page is far short of being a corroborated fact.

        It was also asked why Leila’s father was seen wearing a blood stained or soaked shirt immediately following the arrival of the police. The Fowler’s arrived just a minute or two before the first local Police Officer. Mr. Fowler enter the home and found his daughter and carried her from the house with the intention of rushing her to the hospital. The police officer convinced him to put her down and allow him to perform CPR and wait for the ambulance. That is why Mr. Fowler’s shirt had blood on it.

        Having been told by his son that a man was came into the house and killed Leila, Mr. Fowler got into his vehicle to search for that person. The lone Police Officer was in no position to stop Fowler and treat Leila.

        As for the a neighbor who lives across the street and claimed to have seen the police arrive, but did not see the Fowlers pull up to the house I can only say that the home in question has an obscured view of the Fowlers’ residence because of tall bushes that line the yard near the road. In addition, it is reasonable to assume that the neighbor was made aware of the Police Department because the cruiser used its siren.

        There is also the issue of the neighbor who recanted her initial testimony that she saw a man who matched the description of alleged intruder/assailant. Her identity has not yet been provided (although I have my own hunch in this matter). I am willing to guess that it is a neighbor whose desire to be of assistance was far great than her actual ability to do so. When asked for very specific details, she may have come up wanting.

  2. NoNwz

    Thanks much for this informative post. It answered many questions I’ve had…except some questions I’ve had about neighbor Don Melon’s account. The Calaveras Enterprise article stated Don Melon had a “clear view of the Fowler home” from his driveway and garden beds, and that he saw vehicles both arriving and ‘barrelling down the road’–so I wonder why he didn’t see the Fowler’s car arrive from the ballgame as well:

    On the day Leila died, Don Melon was out front watering his roses. He has a clear view of the Fowler home from the garden beds near his driveway.

    All of a sudden ambulance, paramedics, fire trucks show up, and I say, “What the hell is going on over there?”

    Shortly after paramedics arrived, Melon said a man drove up in a white SUV with what looked like blood soaked into his shirt.

    “A few minutes later a guy comes barreling down the road, jumps out, and hollers, ‘Did you see a Mexican come through here? Somebody just stabbed my daughter.’ His T-shirt was covered in something orange-colored. He was about 6-foot tall, stocky, and short black hair.”

    Melon initially thought this was Leila’s father, but after seeing a picture of Barney Fowler, he realized he didn’t think it was the same person.

    “He (Barney) has a goatee. This guy didn’t have one. Who was this guy?”

    The Enterprise asked the sheriff about Melon’s comments, but did not received [sic] a response.

    http://www.calaverasenterprise.com/news/article_f678ab20-befe-11e2-ad13-001a4bcf88&r=/

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