Body of missing Salisbury girl found

Police say sex offender who dated her aunt kidnapped 11-year-old

no additional charges yet

  • Sarah H. Foxwell
Sarah H. Foxwell
December 25, 2009|By Michael Dresser | Baltimore Sun reporter

SALISBURY — — Wicomico County law enforcement officials have found the body of an 11-year-old girl who police say was kidnapped from her bedroom by a registered sex offender.

The body of Sarah Haley Foxwell was found in the Rum Ridge area of northern Wicomico County about three-quarters of a mile south of the Maryland-Delaware state line, an area that had been a focus of the search.

Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis said no additional charges have yet been brought against Thomas James Leggs Jr., the sex offender who had been earlier charged with her kidnapping.

Lewis said law enforcement officials would work on the crime scene, an area of suburban homes and fields, throughout the night. He said Sarah's family had been notified.

The body was discovered by a search team comprised entirely of law enforcement officers, including Maryland State Police and Salisbury police. Police would not comment on the condition of Sarah's body.

Earlier in the day, more than 3,000 volunteers gathered on Christmas Day to take part in the ongoing search for Sarah, and Wicomico law enforcement officials said they were interviewing other potential victims of Leggs.

"We have been interviewing possible additional victims," Lewis said at an afternoon briefing. "There are several."

He did not provide additional details.

The search for Sarah brough out throngs of volunteers who abandoned their holiday plans to help locate a middle school student described as bright and exuberant. Volunteers gathered around 7 a.m. on Christmas Day at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium to register for the search. The night before, more than 200 people scoured frozen fields and ponds the night before without success.

A younger sister awoke during the night on Tuesday to see Sarah leave the room with their aunt's former boyfriend, a registered sex offender, according to court documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

Leggs, 30, who lived in a building on the grounds of his parents' Salisbury home, was arrested Wednesday and charged with burglary and kidnapping in Sarah's disappearance, police said. Two older people who answered the door at the home declined to comment Friday afternoon, asking a reporter to leave the property.

As volunteers trudged through muddy terrain, Lewis asked property owners in the county to scour their own fields, woodlands and yards for the girl. He asked owners to display a red ribbon, flag or article of clothing on their mail boxes or other areas to alert law enforcement that the area had been searched.

Leggs, who is listed on sex offender registries in Maryland and Delaware, was not cooperating with police, said Sgt. Charsten Wendlandt of the Wicomico County Sheriff's Office.

Davis Ruark, state's attorney for Wicomico County, gave morning volunteers gathered in the stadium instructions on how not to contaminate crime scenes. His words included explicit advice to "not touch any potential body that might be found," but he also said officials had not given up hope for Sarah, saying it's "our hope and our prayer that she's still alive."

Later, Ruark marvelled at the turnout, as volunteers arrived from as far as Massachusetts and a 16-person dive team was dispatched from Baltimore. "I have never seen anything like this in all my years of being state's attorney," he said. "The community has just risen to the occasion."

Sarah, a sixth-grade student at Wicomico Middle School, is a bright and lighthearted child, said Tracey Powell, a paternal aunt, who attended a Christmas Eve candlelight vigil for the girl at an elementary school last night.

"She would just run the hallways laughing and giggling, and just jump into your arms," Powell said. "All we want is for her to come home safe and sound."

Standing near a shrine of teddy bears and flickering candles, Trent Molnar, who coaches Sarah's brother's baseball team, led the crowd in prayer, asking for Sarah to be returned home for Christmas.

Sarah's younger sister told police she saw the girl leave the bedroom with the man they knew as "Tommy," according to police and court documents. Leggs, who works in his family's custom cabinet business, recently dated the girl's aunt, who is the guardian for Sarah and two of her siblings, Wendlandt said. Another relative discovered Sarah missing in the morning, he said.

Leggs knew the family kept a spare key under a pot on the porch of the home, according to court documents.

Leggs "was developed as a suspect early on in the investigation before we were aware of his criminal background, but he does have a criminal history to include third- and fourth-degree sex offenses of small, young females," said Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis.

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