Calif. Cops Searching for Killer
VALLEJO, Calif. (AP) _ Sometimes Stephanie Kahalekulu wakes up wondering why the bubbly 7-year-old she helped raise vanished 14 months ago and how her remains came to be abandoned on a wooded hillside.
The search for Xiana Fairchild ended this month with the discovery of a small skull found in the Santa Cruz mountains, but Kahalekulu’s questions won’t stop. What happened to Xiana? And does a jailed cab driver hold a key to the case?
``I need to know,″ said Kahalekulu. ``Knowing is hard and it hurts but it’s nothing compared to going through it and she went through it.″
On Sunday, more than 600 people came to mourn Xiana’s death, many of the same people who have volunteered in a high-profile search since her disappearance.
The case has created a flurry of accusations, rifts between families and countless leads turned in to police _ but never the prospect of her return.
Xiana was born to Antoinette Robinson, a prison inmate convicted of auto theft. She was brought up in Hawaii with her great-grandmother and Kahalekulu, her 36-year-old great-aunt.
``She was in her own little giggly world, really,″ says Kahalekulu of the gap-toothed child with a mop of curly black hair.
In June 1999, Xiana was reclaimed by her mother, who had moved to Vallejo, about 35 miles north of San Francisco.
Kahalekulu also relocated to Colorado and made do with frequent phone calls, the last one on Thanksgiving weekend in 1999. Two weeks later, Xiana was gone.
Robinson’s live-in boyfriend, Robert Turnbough, told police he had dropped Xiana off at the school bus stop on Dec. 9, 1999.
A few days later, the gray sweat pants Turnbough said Xiana was wearing turned up in the laundry. Turnbough said he had assumed that was how she had dressed when she disappeared.
Kahalekulu flew in to search for Xiana. While walking to the bus stop, neighbors told her about how Xiana was sometimes locked out of the apartment in the afternoons.
Turnbough and Robinson subsequently appeared before a federal grand jury but no charges were filed. Both deny having anything to do with Xiana’s disappearance.
Turnbough called an impromptu news conference to declare his innocence. ``I might do drugs and mess up a bit, but I am not a monster,″ he said.
Robinson’s lawyer, Dan Healy, says his client’s been maligned.
``They’ve treated the mother of a murdered child like dirt,″ he said.
Within days of Xiana’s disappearance, a volunteer search center was in place and fliers flapped from telephone poles. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2000 that the case took an unexpected turn.
A girl who had been kidnapped from the streets of Vallejo escaped. Shackled to the front seat of the kidnapper’s car for two days, she grabbed a ring of keys when her abductor was out of the car and freed herself, flagging down a passing truck.
The man arrested in the 8-year-old’s kidnapping, former cab driver Curtis Dean Anderson, 39, had lived in Vallejo at the time of Xiana’s disappearance.
From jail, Anderson made a number of rambling statements, including reportedly telling Kahalekulu he kidnapped Xiana and kept her for two weeks and then gave her, alive, to someone else.
Police said there is no evidence linking him to the disappearance and it’s not clear whether Anderson knows something or is just fond of publicity.
Anderson’s attorney, Carl Spieckerman, did not return telephone calls.
The search for Fairchild ended on Jan. 19 when a construction worker found portions of a skull and two pieces of jaw on a mountainous road about 60 miles south of her Vallejo home.
DNA from a molar was compared to DNA from Xiana’s toothbrush to make the match.
The coroner said her death was that of ``homicidal violence″ but would not disclose further details.
On the Net:
More on Xiana: http://www.rinokids.com/Children/Fairchild/index.html
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: http://www.missingkids.com