The Sarah Foxwell Tragedy Remembered 10 Years Later - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

The Sarah Foxwell Tragedy Remembered 10 Years Later

Updated: Dec 25, 2019 9:00 AM -05:00
Sarah Foxwell Sarah Foxwell

SALISBURY, Md.- It was 10 years ago this month that the Eastern Shore of Maryland was rocked by a horrific crime. An 11-year-old girl was kidnapped from her Wicomico County home. Her body was discovered on Christmas day following a massive search.

Her name was Sarah Foxwell and Christmas is never the same for anyone in the area who was around when she tragically disappeared.

It is a painful memory for Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis.

"This was the most difficult case in my 35 years in law enforcement," Lewis recalled.

Sarah Foxwell

On Dec. 22, 2009, Sarah disappeared from her home in the middle of the night.

"We knew immediately that this was not a parental kidnapping," Lewis said. "We knew this was a kidnapping in the middle of the night of a little girl from her bedroom wearing pajamas. And we knew we had to work quickly to try to locate her, if we were going to find her alive."

The first break in the case came early on.

"We knew early on that Thomas Leggs was our suspect because the 6-year-old sister Emma was in the bedroom with her," Lewis said. "She was awakened to the suspect Thomas Leggs who was in the bedroom. She was familiar to him."

Leggs had dated Sarah's aunt. Sarah and her sister knew him as "Mr. Tommy."

Shortly after deputies arrived on the scene, they were briefed of this information about Leggs and also found out he had a criminal history

"We immediately queried him in our system and found out he was a registered sex offender in both Maryland and Delaware," Lewis said. "Within hours we had deputies knocking on his door in eastern Wicomico County. He lived just a couple of miles from her home."

Leggs was questioned and denied any involvement. It was a race against the clock to find Sarah. It was a massive effort involving law enforcement from across the region and across the country.

"We had individuals here from the Dakotas who had come in," Lewis said. "Mantrackers with special dogs were brought in to try to track down little Sarah. We never gave up hope. We were very hopeful that we would find her."

The massive search by police was eventually extended to include average citizens, who came by the thousands on a cold and gray Christmas day to help in the search.

"The citizens in this county pulled together like none of us had seen in the past," Lewis said.

It was cellphone data from Leggs' phone that helped narrow down the search. Sarah's body was discovered by a Maryland State Police trooper in a wooded area east of Delmar on the afternoon of Christmas day. She had been raped and brutally murdered. Meanwhile, Leggs continued to proclaim his innocence.

"Thomas Leggs and his defense team were presented with DNA results that we had recovered from little Sarah linking the suspect exclusively to the crime and it was then, and only then, did he admit his guilt," Lewis said. "Up until then he had proclaimed his innocence the entire time."

Lewis does not hold back on the punishment he believes Leggs deserved.

"I said back then and I'll say it again: if there was ever anyone who deserved the death penalty, it was Thomas Leggs," Lewis said. "I screamed the death penalty back in 2009. But Maryland had already placed a moratorium on the death penalty and our governor had said he disagreed with administering the death penalty in the state of Maryland."

Instead, Leggs received two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. The Maryland Department of Corrections will not say where he is serving that time.

Thomas Leggs, Sarah Foxwell's murderer
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