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Maryland girl, believed kidnapped from her room, found dead

Sarah Haley Foxwell had been missing since Tuesday.
Sarah Haley Foxwell had been missing since Tuesday. (AP)
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By Martin Weil and Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 26, 2009

An 11-year-old Salisbury, Md., girl who was believed abducted from her bedroom Tuesday night was found dead after a search on Christmas, the Wicomico County sheriff's department said.

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Sarah Haley Foxwell's body was found about 4 p.m. in a rural area a dozen miles northeast of downtown Salisbury by a law enforcement search team, said Sgt. Michael Carey of the sheriff's department.

No cause of death was readily apparent, said Sgt. Carsten Wendlandt of the Wicomico Bureau of Investigation, but he said authorities were conducting a murder investigation. "Absolutely," he said.

A registered sex offender, Thomas J. Leggs, 30, has been charged with kidnapping the girl and was in custody. No additional charges had been placed as of late Christmas night. "We are still in the early stages of processing the scene," Wendlandt said.

The discovery was made after a methodical search of an area that investigation suggested as a likely place, Wendlandt said. He declined to provide details; another report said the body was found amid woods and brush.

Officials have described Leggs as the former boyfriend of the girl's aunt, with whom the girl had been living. Leggs and the aunt broke up about a month ago, according to authorities. Leggs was arrested Wednesday.

The girl had gone to her bedroom about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and was gone in the morning when her brother went to check on her. In addition to Sarah, her brother and a sister live with the aunt, who has other children.

Sheriff Michael A. Lewis said interviews with the children in the house, as well as other evidence, convinced investigators that Leggs abducted Sarah.

Sarah's younger sister woke Tuesday night to see Sarah leave the room with Leggs, according to court documents obtained by the Baltimore Sun.

Quoting court documents, the Sun said Leggs knew that the family kept a spare key hidden on the porch.

Lewis said earlier that Leggs, who works as a laborer in a wood and counter business, was refusing to cooperate.

Leggs, who authorities said lives in Salisbury in an outbuilding on property his parents own, is registered as a sex offender in Maryland and Delaware.

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