OCEAN CITY – The suspect arrested in the kidnapping and murder of an 11-year-old girl in Salisbury last week is loosely connected with Ocean City and was arrested in the resort in September for allegedly breaking into a female victim’s downtown residence and making sexual advances toward her.
Thomas James Leggs, Jr., 30, of Salisbury, was arrested last week in connection with the abduction and murder of 11-year-old Sarah Haley Foxwell, whose body was found near Delmar after a massive search conducted by thousands of volunteers after she was reported missing on Dec. 23. Thus far, Leggs has been charged with kidnapping and burglary. Foxwell’s death was ruled a homicide this week and murder charges are pending against the suspect, who is being held without bond in Wicomico County.
Leggs has a history of sexual offenses and is listed on the sex offender registries in both Maryland and Delaware. His first reported offense occurred in 1998 when he was 18 years old and was convicted of a sex offense involving a 12-year-old girl, a conviction that landed him on the Maryland Sex Offender Registry. In 2000, Leggs was convicted on a fourth-degree sex assault charge for an incident involving a 16-year-old girl in Rehoboth that resulted in a listing on Delaware’s sex offender registry. He has been listed as a high-risk offender in Delaware since 2001.
In the wake of the tragic incident in Salisbury last week, detectives are now trying to determine if Leggs is connected to any similar unreported incidents in the area. However, one situation in Ocean City in September was reported and could have had a worse outcome if the victim, a 24-year-old seasonal resident in the resort, had not awoken and called police.
Leggs, who worked at times in different restaurants and bars in Ocean City last summer, was arrested and charged with burglary and malicious destruction of property after breaking into the residence of the victim with whom he had become acquainted about 10 days earlier. On Sept. 11, Ocean City police responded to a residence on Philadelphia Ave. around 9th Street for a reported breaking and entering that had already occurred.
The female victim told police she awoke shortly after 4 a.m. to find a man, who she knew only as Tommy, standing next to her bed with his shirt off and his pants down to his knees. The victim said she met “Tommy,” later identified as Leggs, about 10 days earlier at a downtown bar and asked him back to her apartment, but when he made sexual advances toward her and tried to take her clothes off, she asked him to leave at that time and he complied.
About 10 days later, in the early morning hours on Sept. 11, the victim awoke to find Leggs in her apartment. According to police reports, Leggs told the victim his roommates would not let him stay at his place and he had nowhere else to go. When the victim asked Leggs how he got in, he told her he entered through an unlocked door, but the victim knew she had locked the door before she went to bed.
The victim asked Leggs to leave and got dressed and left her room, but when she got up to check, she found the suspect still in her living room. It was at that point the victim discovered a screen door had been forced open. The victim again told Leggs to leave and this time he complied, which is when she called 911. It was later discovered the screen on a kitchen window had also been forced open with damage to the window frame, according to police reports.
The victim had a cell phone number for Leggs, and when Ocean City police called him just before 5 a.m., he told the officer he had just left Ocean City and was about 10 minutes from Salisbury. Based on the victim’s testimony, along with the damage to the apartment and the timeline established by talking to the suspect on his cell phone, Leggs was later arrested and charged with fourth-degree burglary and malicious destruction of property.
Leggs was released after posting a $10,000 bond. His trial date had been set for District Court in Ocean City on Jan. 13.
While Leggs has only been charged with kidnapping and burglary thus far, the medical examiner on Tuesday ruled Foxwell’s death a homicide and murder charges are imminent, likely within the next 30-45 days.
Wicomico County State’s Attorney Davis Ruark said this week the case will likely go before a grand jury and did not rule out the death penalty, although Ruark said that discussion was premature because Leggs has not yet been charged in the homicide.
Just yesterday, Leggs’ attorney, public defender Arch McFadden, said publicly his client “has denied and continues to deny any involvement in this crime.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of local residents attended a benefit on behalf of the Foxwell family on Tuesday night at Pickle’s Pub in Ocean City with an estimated $15,000 raised during the event.
“We had a great turnout for this fundraiser and the people that donated were just about 100 percent from Ocean City,” said manager John Schinault. “The people in this community were just so upset by this that we felt like we wanted to do something. The money raised is going to an education fund for the six other siblings.”