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Sheriff Calls for Death Penalty in Child Murder Case

December 30, 2009

DOVER, Del. – Investigators say the kidnapping and murder of a Maryland girl, whose body was found on Christmas Day, calls out for the death penalty.

“I was a believer in capital punishment before this, but I’m a stronger believer today,” says Wicomico County Sheriff Michael Lewis.

The body of 11-year-old Sarah Foxwell was found two days after she was abducted from her home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. A relative discovered she was missing early Wednesday while checking on Sarah and her 6-year-old sister.

“It’s gut-wrenching,” Lewis says. “It’s the worst I’ve seen in 26 years of law enforcement.”

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While Foxwell’s death has been ruled a homicide, Thomas Leggs Jr., 30, of Salisbury, has been charged with burglary and kidnapping — but not murder. But Lewis says he’s confident sheriffs’ deputies have the man responsible for Foxwell’s disappearance.

“This man was and is a registered sex offender in Maryland and in Delaware. And he was out to commit this heinous crime against this innocent 11-year-old child.”

A charging document says Leggs was the last person seen with Sarah.

When Lewis talks about the condition of the body, his voice drops and he can’t finish the thought.

When asked about the cause of death, he didn’t want to elaborate while the investigation is ongoing. However, he did suggest the case could expand.

“We’ve actually received a number of phone calls and emails from individuals who have been affiliated with him in the past, or have been victims of his in the past, and they wish to meet with investigators in this particular case to look at similarities in this case.”

Leggs was convicted of a third-degree sex offense involving a 12-year-old girl in 1998. He is a registered sex offender in Delaware in connection with the 2001 rape of a minor.

Lewis says Leggs was uncooperative throughout the investigation.

“We actually provided counsel for him, and he still chose not to talk.”

Maryland is among the toughest restrictions in death penalty cases in the nation. A videotaped confession and DNA or other ‘latent evidence’ like fingerprints would have to be present in order to get a death penalty. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley sought to abolish the death penalty in the 2009 General Assembly session.

Lewis says he’s thankful that attempt failed.

“We cannot abolish the death penalty. It’s got to be reserved for cases such as this.”

(Copyright 2009 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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