updated 05/12/2013 AT 8:00 AM ET
•originally published 05/12/2013 AT 7:45 AM ET
A 12-year-old Northern California boy – who called police to report that a stranger had fatally stabbed his 8-year-old sister, Leila Fowler – has been arrested on suspicion of murder, according to the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department.
The slaying shocked and frightened many of the 7,500 residents of Valley Springs, Calif., who locked their doors for the first time in years, kept their kids home from school and loaded their guns after Fowler died of multiple stab wounds.
Police searched through the rugged terrain, looked in and around homes and checked in on local registered sex offenders and parolees, looking for the tall, muscular man with long, scraggly hair described by the victim’s brother.
But in the days after the fatal stabbing, a neighbor, who was the only witness to claim to have seen the fleeing man described by the brother, recanted her story. The police deemed the witness not credible. Police assured residents that there was no deadly predator in their midst targeting random victims and that the person who stabbed the bubbly third-grader 21 times knew her.
“Citizens of Calaveras County can sleep a little better tonight,” Sheriff Gary Kuntz told reporters. He added that there were fingerprints and DNA evidence but declined to say where the suspect was being held or when he will appear in court.
The brother’s arrest on Saturday comes two weeks after the April 27 attack.
At a vigil for Leila three days after the murder, several family members spoke, including her brother.
“I’m not saying goodbye to Leila,” he said. “I’m saying ‘See you later.’ There are no goodbyes.”