Sex offender indicted for murder, assault of Salisbury girl, 11

Prosecutors say they will seek death penalty

February 10, 2010|By Tricia Bishop | tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

A Wicomico grand jury has indicted convicted sex offender Thomas James Leggs Jr. in the murder and sexual assault of an 11-year-old Salisbury girl whose body was found Christmas Day, the county sheriff said Tuesday.

Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty in the case, which was criticized by some as too long in coming.

"A lot of people were wondering 'Why hadn't he been charged? Was the case weak? Was there insufficient evidence to charge him?' " said Wicomico Sheriff Michael A. Lewis. "That was never the case. We simply had time on our side."

Leggs, 30, has been held on kidnapping and burglary charges since Dec. 23, the day Sarah Foxwell was abducted from the home where she and two siblings lived with their guardian aunt. Leggs had recently dated the children's aunt, and Sarah's younger sister said she saw "Tommy" lead Sarah from their bedroom during the early morning, according to court records.

Police found Sarah's green toothbrush and a lollipop in Leggs' 2003 Dodge pickup, and he was wearing an outfit similar to the one Sarah's little sister described when he was brought into the sheriff's office for questioning, according to court documents.

Leggs has a previous conviction in Maryland for a sexual offense involving a 12-year-old, and he was convicted for fourth-degree rape of a 16-year-old girl in Delaware, where he's listed as a "high-risk offender" in a state sexual offense registry. In Maryland, he was listed as a "compliant" offender, meaning he had followed notification procedures.

Leggs' public defender, Archibald McFadden, was not available to comment yesterday.

Sarah's death has spurred state lawmakers to review sex-offender laws during this year's legislative session and has drawn the attention of Gov. Martin O'Malley. He publicly questioned what the state could "have done differently" to improve communications between states so that Maryland agencies would have been aware of Leggs' high-risk status in Delaware.

Leggs is being held without bond on the new charges, which include murder, two sexual offenses, kidnapping and burglary. The indictment was returned Monday.

"We've been methodically investigating this case and dotting our i's and crossing our t's," said Lewis, who used information from the Baltimore Police DNA lab and the FBI to make the indictment case. The DNA analysis, which typically takes months, was expedited to speed up the process.

Wicomico County State's Attorney Davis Ruark commended the federal and local agencies' work, calling it "extremely diligent" and enlightening. They were able to find "additional information tying the defendant to the crimes," Ruark said.

Added Lewis: "Our case has only gotten stronger against him. It's a very strong case."

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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