Remembering Sarah Foxwell - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

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A Year After Her Death, Community Still Reminded of Sarah Foxwell

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Sarah Haley Foxwell, above, was 11-years-old at the time of her death. Sarah Haley Foxwell, above, was 11-years-old at the time of her death.

SALISBURY, Md.- Much of Delmarva will think about Sarah Haley Foxwell this Christmas. On Dec. 25, 2009, the 11-year-old Salisbury girl's murdered body was found after a massive search that involved the community. Some things have changed in a year's time but Sarah's mother, Jennifer Foxwell, is still deeply pained by the loss.

"I'm trying to put a smile on my face and move forward," Foxwell said.

Sarah was in her aunt's care when she was abducted from her home the evening of Dec 22. Her body was found three days later in a wooded area of Wicomico County near the Maryland-Delaware line. The State Medical Examiner's Office ruled Sarah's death a homicide and found that she died of multiple injuries.

Thomas J. Leggs Jr., 31, a registered sex offender in Maryland and Delaware, has been charged with first-degree murder, first- and second-degree burglary, kidnapping, kidnap-child under 16 and first- and second-degree sex offenses in connection with Sarah's death.

Sarah's tragic death helped toughen up Maryland's laws against sex offenders.

"It brought it into focus and as we started looking into procedures, I felt like there were a number of steps that should be taken to improve that," explained state Del. Norman Conway of Salisbury.

Sarah's legacy lives on in other ways as well. A Maryland State Police trooper who helped organize search efforts for Sarah named a new bloodhound after the child to keep her memory alive.

"I thought it was a good idea. Sarah's family was contacted," said Sgt. Eric Fogle of Jessup. "We thought it was a great idea to honor her."

According to victims' advocates at "Sarah's House," more formally known as the Wicomico County Child Advocacy Center, Sarah's death heightened awareness of child abuse throughout the year. "Sarah's House" saw a spike in the number of reported cases early on.

"No one realizes how serious the issue can be. By keeping her name attached to this building, that means people will always remember," said Michelle Hughes of "Sarah's House."

Incoming Wicomico State's Attorney Matthew Maciarello will keep his predecessor, Davis Ruark, on as lead counsel in the trial next year in Cecil County, on Maryland's upper Eastern Shore.

"Davis and I are committed to the citizens of Wicomico County to ensure justice is done, all victims have a voice, and that the public is protected through vigorous prosecution for all cases," Maciarello said in a statement.

Both Foxwell and Wicomico Sheriff Mike Lewis plan on being at Leggs' trial every day when it gets under way in April 2011.

"Christmas will never be the same for any of us ever again," Lewis said. "I know it won't for me."

Repeated messages to Leggs' public defenders were not returned.

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