8-Year-Old Gets Stabbed to Death By Intruder & Makes Moms Rethink Tween Babysitters

Horrifying 35

front doorThe small community of Valley Springs, California is still reeling from the stabbing of 8-year-old Leila Fowler by an intruder. Leila wasn't alone in her house. Her 12-year-old brother was babysitting her while their parents were away. Considering it was the middle of the day, I'm sure Leila's parents figured this was a perfectly safe arrangement. But now that this has happened, parents everywhere may be wondering: Is it really safe to leave a 12-year-old alone to babysit?

As the oldest of five kids, I babysat my siblings and other families' children starting around that age. It was no big deal at the time. Just what you do. I think some 12-year-olds are more mature and trustworthy than others, and parents are usually a pretty good judge of that. But there are some things even the most mature 12-year-old is just not capable of handling.

We still know so little about this case. Did the intruder break in, or did he just knock on the door? Did he pick the Fowlers' home because he noticed the parents were gone? Did they know this man? Regardless, you know that the same exact time Saturday afternoon, there were millions of homes around the country where a young teen was home babysitting a younger sibling or two. It's a pretty common thing.

Unfortunately, a 12-year-old probably isn't going to be very helpful in an attack like this. It sounds like he was in another part of the house when Leila was stabbed, which is typical and understandable. A young teen is unlikely to be physically capable of fighting off an intruder. He may even get hurt as well. The best he'll be able to do is call the police. (Unless the teen was actually involved in the stabbing, but that's a whole other issue.)

But cases like this are so rare! Most of the time parents can expect to leave a responsible young teen home with their siblings without anything terrible happening. And goodness knows we parents are incredibly busy and sometimes it seems easier to leave our kids at home rather than drag them around with us on our errands -- or paying a lot more for an adult to watch our kids. Still, it just takes one horrifying incident like this for parents to re-think their habit of letting kids babysit kids.

Do you think 12 is too young to babysit?


Image via grongar/Flickr

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LostS... LostSoul88

When I was 8 I was babysitting my 1 yr old cousin.  It all depends on how responisble the child is. 

My heart breaks for her brother, he will never live this down. I hope they catch the sick SOB that did this. 

nonmember avatar blue

I would NEVER leave my child with someone who isn't a responsible adult. Not for fear of madmen stabbing my kids, but because i don't think it's good practice. With that said, the family in question broke no laws. They made a choice, that they will likely regret...but they didn't actual do anything technically wrong.

nonmember avatar Zoe'sMom

This story is tragic, but I think it has very little to do with the fact that a 12 year old big brother was the babysitter. Consider that many people also leave their children with older, senior family members. Is granny anymore capable of fighting off a knife than a 12 year old boy? Consider me, a mother myself. I whopping 105lbs, and 5ft tall. The 12 year old is probably stronger than me... should we then only hire big burly men just in case?

BlueJane BlueJane

Yep. I guess I have to hire personal security to babysit my kids from now on.

It's tragic yes. But let's not be silly.

Vegeta Vegeta

The kids were 12 and 8. They can probably survive on their own. Er sans an intruder. Shouldn't blame two kids that are old enough to watch themselves for the tragedy. Blame the intruder who shouldn't have been in the house in the first place (if that's what turns out actually happened)

nonmember avatar Dawn

NO WAY!! My boys are 12 and 13 they have never been left alone and won't be for a long time... Do these people actually watch the news,read the paper,live in the real world? Why on earth would any parent leave their children alone these days... Everybody says well I did when I was a kid,yeah well this is a whole different time... I'm very sorry for their loss but had they thought about their decision their little girl would be here today... Our children should be our first priority and we need to use more common sense when raising them.....

Marcella Shambles

Your child has a larger chance of dying in an auto accident then this happening - do you stop driving them?  No.  Do you take precautions?  Yes.  I try and teach my daughter to be aware, but not afraid.  Teach her what to do if a dangerous situation should happen, but not 24/7.  And, no, I don;t watch too much of the news, because of all the 100's of thousands good things that happened in the world today, they are going to just report on the 15 to 20 bad things, because fear sells and society buys it.  The world is no more dangerous now then it was30 odd years ago (check the statistics) - we just have the internet so we can find and follow every shitty thing that happens and then teach our kids to live in fear.  We live in a world that is more good then bad, and the bad are scary, but I will not, nor let my daughter,  live in fear of the bad "what ifs".

Nelli... NellieAthome

Dawn - you cannot say for sure that the child would be alive if an adult was present.  Shame on you for being so judgmental, shame on you for your lack of compassion and your smug self-righteousness

I pity your children that you mollycoddle them so much - they will be lost and helpless when they turn 18 and are on their own at college since you have never given them the chance to learn self-reliance at a young age when the mistakes are small.Actual common sense says you allow you children to grow and learn responsibility as they grow - otherwise your kids are going to be the idiot college kids who drink, do stupid things and have no judgment at all when they are freshmen because their parents never let them learn when the mistakes were unlikely to cost them dearly.

Nelli... NellieAthome

Oh and Dawn, my roommate reminds me that the 10-year old stolen from her bedroom and raped was taken *while her parents were home*, as was Elizabeth Smart,  proving that parents being home  is not a definitive preventative measure.

So how the h@ll can you honestly try and lay a guilt trip on the parents?

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