Human Remains Found in Adoptive Mother's Freezer, Police Say

Date: 2008-09-29

Human Remains Found in Adoptive Mother's Freezer, Police Say  

The discovery of human remains in a basement freezer in Lusby triggered a massive investigation across two counties and the District into the fate of three girls adopted years ago and apparently not seen since.

The adoptive mother, 43-year-old Renee Bowman, told investigators the remains were those of two of her adopted daughters, authorities said. Bowman also told police that the bodies had been in the freezer since at least February, when she moved to Lusby from Rockville.

The third adopted daughter, a 7-year-old girl, was found wandering Friday night along Pawnee Trail in Lusby. A neighbor called police after finding the girl, who had been locked in a second-story bedroom, police said. She escaped by jumping out the window, authorities said.

"It was like something out of a movie to a certain extent," recalled Phillip Garrett, who found the girl. "You just saw this child in this nightgown, with no shoes, no socks, covered in mud, dirt."

According to court documents, the girl bore the signs of serious malnutrition and abuse.

She had extensive open, infected sores on her body; ligature marks on her neck; bruises, scars and fingernails blackened with blood, the court documents indicated.

The girl told investigators her mother beat her frequently with a white shoe that was soaked in blood.

"She was like just like, 'My mother beats me, beats me to death'," Garrett said. "I asked her, 'When was the last time you've eaten?' She said, 'I didn't eat yesterday.' I said, 'How about the day before?' She said, 'No.'"

But the even more gruesome discovery would come Saturday, when investigators obtained a warrant and searched Bowman's home.

"Very nasty to say the least," said Sheriff Mike Evans. "Fleas were in the house, feces, urine -- terrible, terrible conditions."

When they opened a drop freezer in the basement, the full scale of the horror became apparent.

"[D]uring that search warrant, they noticed some body parts in a freezer," said Sheriff Evans.

Bowman told investigators the bodies were those of two older children she had adopted from the District of Columbia. She had never reported the girls missing.

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty confirmed Bowman had adopted three girls from the city: a girl born in 1997 was adopted in 2001; two sisters, born in 1999 and 2001, were adopted in July 2004, said Fenty. The mayor also said Bowman been receiving $2,400 a month from a federal program as an adoptive parent.

Fenty said the city had performed a background check on Bowman and visited her home before the adoptions were finalized. The District's oversight of the family ended when the adoptions were finalized in 2004, the mayor said.

At the home on Buckskin Trail in Lusby, neighbors said they had never seen any children, and had no clue what was going on in the home.

"I have never, never saw a child there and it's, it's just breaking my heart," said neighbor Nancy Sears.

Another neighbor said Bowman had talked about her children "as if they were older."

"'I had children. I remember being pregnant' and all this and that," Mia Levin said, paraphrasing what she said Bowman had told her.

The discovery of the human remains sent Montgomery County (web|news) detectives to Rockville's Vandalia Drive, where Bowman had rented a house before moving to Charles County.

Bowman's adopted children appear to have been ghosts in Montgomery County: public schools can't confirm the children were ever enrolled; police have no record that social services were ever called to that address, or that police officers ever responded for any calls for trouble.

Neighbors say Bowman moved into the house in the middle of the night and moved out in the middle in the night. At the time, she was living with a man and had dogs, neighbors said.

"The only time I saw them was late night -- I believe they had a dog that they would take out for a walk," said Rivelino Valdia. "I just can't believe it -- it's hard to believe, I never saw children there."

It was a common theme among the neighbors. Everyone remembered Bowman's big dogs, but no one recalled seeing any little girls.

"I never saw children here," said Dante Onorati. "I know he had three dogs, but I never saw children here and it was never brought up to me."

Montgomery County police talked to the homeowners who had rented the property to Bowman until she moved out in February. Detectives were trying to create a timeline of when and where the children were "last seen alive and by whom."

"It looks like a strong indicator the children may have died in Montgomery County, but we haven't confirmed that," said Lt. Paul Starks of Montgomery County police.

If the children did die in Montgomery County, the Montgomery County State's Attorney's office would be the one to prosecute any homicide charge.

Bowman is being held without bond in Calvert County on first-degree child abuse and first-degree assault charges related to the abused 7-year-old.

Anyone with information relating to this crime please contact the Maryland State Police, Prince Frederick Barrack at (410) 535-1400 or the Calvert County Sheriff's Office at (410) 535-2800, extension 2454,


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