8-Year Old Leila Fowler May Not Have Been Killed by Her Older Brother After All


On April 27, 2013, 8-year-old Leila Fowler was found stabbed to death in her family's home in Valley Springs, California. Her older brother Isiah, who was 12 at the time, was found guilty of her murder in 2015. This Thursday, an appeals court made the decision to overturn that conviction. With Isiah Fowler's lawyers arguing lack of evidence and a violation of rights, the identity of Leila's true killer may be called into question once again.


Isiah Fowler was the only other person home on the night Leila Fowler was fatally stabbed 20 times. In 2013, he told police that he found his sister in the home and saw a suspect flee the scene. Very quickly, the 12-year-old's role as a witness was transformed into that of a suspect when investigators began noticing inconsistencies in his story. 

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While Isiah Fowler never confessed to his sister's murder, prosecutors used a bizarre 911 call and his inconsistent interviews with detectives to argue that he was guilty. Ultimately, this led to a judge sentencing him to be detained in a detention center until the age of 23. 

A California appellate court has now reversed the 2015 ruling, claiming that two of the interviews Fowler gave were inadmissible in court due to the fact that he was not read his Miranda rights by officers. "He didn't get an attorney, and he didn't get his Miranda rights," said Fowler's lawyer Steve Plesser, according to CBS Sacramento. "Instead, he got badgered by law enforcement who tried to prove that he had killed his sister when he didn't."

Plesser also argued that the inconsistencies in Fowler's interviews may have been caused by his father Barney Fowler's presence in the interrogation room. KCRA reports that Barney Fowler pressured his son to cooperate with detectives. A transcript of Barney Fowler's words to his son paint that picture. 

"This is the deal, they have evidence that points back to you ... what I want us to talk about is that for some reason there was an accident and for some reason you did hurt your sister, you got to talk to him. Now just tell him, 'Yes, you did it,' and what the deal is. We can't move forward with this, without you either admitting to it that you did it or they're gonna get their evidence together and they're still gonna come and (eventually) arrest you and it's gonna be a big scene ... (There's) no proof that anybody else has entered our home. So basically everything comes back to you."

CBS Sacramento

According to CBS Sacramento, Steve Plesser said that the forensic team found DNA evidence on Leila's body that further proves that Isiah is not her killer. "So the DNA that was found on her body did not belong to our client, anyone in his family, any of the law enforcement or first responders, or crime scene technicians who were in the house, and no one who was in the federal database." 

CBS Sacramento reports that the California Attorney General is allowed to file a petition asking the California Supreme Court to review the reversal of the 2015 conviction. If no petition is filed, the prosecution will have to decide if they want to try Isiah for his sister's death again, but if they move forward, they will not be allowed to use the information gathered in two of the four interviews he gave during the initial investigation. 

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According to Fox 40, Isiah Fowler will remain in police custody for now, but if his case is tried again, his lawyers will ask that he be released on bail. Steve Plesser says he is confident Fowler did not murder his sister. "Our client certain had no history of doing anything suggesting he was capable of that," he said. "So whoever did that is a very dangerous and demented person, and very worried that they're out there and we're going to find out that they committed another crime."

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