72° Good Morning
72° Good Morning

Focus on sex offender in Maryland girl's death

SALISBURY, Md. - SALISBURY, Md. (AP) — Everyone from hunters to homeowners joined in the search for a missing 11-year-old girl, and thousands of people combed Maryland's Eastern shore on Christmas Day with the hope she was alive.

On Friday afternoon, three days after Sarah H. Foxwell was last seen at her home, law enforcement found her body near the Delaware state line. Investigators were working Saturday to determine how she died.

"This is not the way we wanted to find our young lady on Christmas, but at the very least we've given closure to the family," Wicomico County State's Attorney Davis R. Ruark said at a news conference.

Ruark said Saturday that an autopsy was being conducted, but he did not expect a cause of death to be released immediately. He added that investigators were working Saturday but said any new charges would likely come after an investigation is complete.

Currently, the focus of the investigation is on Thomas J. Leggs Jr., 30, who was charged Wednesday in Sarah's kidnapping.

"There's no indication of involvement of any other individuals at this point," Ruark told The Associated Press.

No new charges were filed as of late Friday.

Leggs is a former boyfriend of the girl's aunt, who is her legal guardian. A public defender representing him has not returned phone calls and a woman who answered the door at Leggs' parents' house declined to speak to a reporter.

Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis said the body was found in the northern part of the county, where authorities had focused their search.

Volunteers met up at a stadium in Salisbury early Friday and fanned out to search for her. Lewis also asked property owners in the county to check their fields and yards for the girl and to display something red to let law enforcement know the area had been searched. He also asked hunters to be on the lookout.

Lewis said Sarah was last seen Tuesday night at 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. A charging document says Leggs was the last person seen with Sarah.

A "juvenile witness" awoke during the night Tuesday and saw Sarah leave the bedroom with "Tommy," and said he was wearing blue jeans, an orange jacket and white sneakers, the charging document says.

Sarah lived with her aunt, Amy Fothergill, who told police the child's toothbrush was missing from the home, according to the statement of probable cause.

Deputies said they found a green toothbrush and a lollipop in a truck Leggs admitted driving. Leggs said he had been wearing jeans and white sneakers the previous night — the same clothes he was wearing when police questioned him.

The sheriff said Thursday that Leggs has been uncooperative and "of no assistance to our investigators."

Sarah was a sixth-grade student at Wicomico Middle School, bright and lighthearted, Tracey Powell, a paternal aunt, told The Baltimore Sun at a Christmas Eve candlelight vigil for her niece on Thursday night.

"She would just run the hallways laughing and giggling, and just jump into your arms," Powell said.

Leggs is listed on the Maryland and Delaware sex offender registries. The Maryland listing notes that he is a child sex offender, but does not give details about his conviction.

Lewis said Leggs has been convicted of a sex offense in Wicomico County and was charged Oct. 29 with fourth-degree burglary.

In 2001, Leggs was convicted in Delaware of rape involving a victim who was 16 or 17, according to the Delaware registry. The registry describes his risk level as "high" and notes he is unemployed.

Leggs, who has been convicted of assault several times, also is awaiting trial on charges of burglary and destruction of property in Ocean City.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

News Photos and Videos