Children's remains found in Calvert Co. freezer

Date: 2008-09-29

Children's remains found in Calvert Co. freezer

Woman, 43, tells police the remains are those of two adopted girls, ages 9, 11

September 29, 2008
Nicole Fuller

LUSBY: A Calvert County woman accused of abusing one of her three daughters was ordered held without bond this morning after police investigating the case found human remains in the woman's basement freezer, authorities said.

Renee Bowman, 43, has been arrested on allegations that she abused her 7-year-old daughter, who was found walking barefoot on a neighborhood street Friday night.

The neighbor recounted today that the disheveled girl told him: "My mother just beats me. She just beats me to death."

Authorities said the girl "showed signs of extreme abuse and neglect" and had fled her home Friday by jumping out of a second-floor window after she was locked in her bedroom.

Bowman admitted to beating the girl with a "hard-heeled shoe" and later told Calvert County authorities, who had executed a search warrant at her home and found the freezer with human remains, that they were "of her two other adopted daughters," according to a news release from the Calvert County Sheriff's Office.

Police told the Associated Press they cannot be sure the remains are of the two girls, ages 9 and 11, until autopsies are performed.

Bowman told police that the remains had been in the freezer since she moved in February from Rockville to the tan, single-story rancher in the 200 block of Buckskin Trail in Lusby.

Phillip Garrett, who said he found the 7-year-old walking on a gravel road early Friday evening with no socks or shoes, described his shock in seeing the girl. Her pink nightgown was muddied and her pigtails, fastened with pink barrettes, were matted.

Garrett, 21, was smoking a cigarette with his neighbor on his front lawn. He called out to her. "I said, 'What's wrong? Are you OK?' "

According to Garrett, the girl answered, "My mother just beats me. She just beats me to death."

Garrett, who was walking his cocker spaniel, Cocco, today as reporters from across the region descended on the rural area, described seeing the girl walking along Pawnee Lane, which intersects with Buckskin Trail. She told Garrett and his friend that her mother had "locked her out" of the house.

"She was very brave," Garrett said. "She definitely looked like she had been through a lot."

Garrett, who is a fashion designer and lives with his parents, said he embraced the girl, who stood stoically. He carried her into his neighbor's home and called 911.

The girl told Garrett that she had not eaten in days, and he ordered a pizza. She requested pepperoni and ham, he said.

As they waited for about an hour, he said the girl told him she had stayed outside the whole night and had tried to knock on people's doors but no one answered. The girl told him she attended school in Indian Head. While she never cried, she repeatedly expressed opposite emotions for her mother and father, Garrett said.

"She kept asking, 'Is my mother going to be arrested?'" Alternately, she expressed love for her father, Garrett said.

"She was very protective of her father," Garrett said. "He was the only one that cared. He was the one that took care of her."

Of her two sisters, Garrett said, "She said her siblings had been beaten to death and one day, they just didn't come back."

Calvert County Detective Sgt. Michael Moore Jr. said that a joint investigation is being conducted with Montgomery County and that, at this point, any charges involving the remains in the freezer would be brought by Montgomery authorities.

Calvert authorities have charged Bowman only in the case involving the 7-year-old, he said.

The girl is being treated a children's hospital in Washington, said Moore, who declined to describe her injuries.

"She's a hero for saving her own life," he said. "I don't know what would have happened if she stayed in that environment."

Moore described the house's exterior as typical, but he said that inside, it was "just pretty much a mess," with four cats and a dog who all had severe cases of fleas.

When investigators looked in the basement freezer, they saw at least one discernible body, wrapped in black plastic trash bag, in a block of ice, Moore said.

During interviews with authorities, Bowman was "not very emotional. She was pretty calm about it," Moore said.

Nancy Sears, 60, who has lived in a home across from the Bowman residence for 18 years, said a woman and man moved into the home in February. She said a previous owner had put a new roof on the home and added vinyl siding a few years ago.

"I never, ever, ever, the whole time, saw any children," Sears said. "No kids outside."

Sears dissolved into tears, thinking that perhaps, if she had seen something, the tragedy could have been averted.

"I just think, you know, maybe if you watch a little closer, you would have seen something," Sears said. "It's just not right."

Sears said she watched Saturday as six to eight police officers hauled a large freezer from the home.

"They just carried it out the front door and put it into the crime scene van," she said.

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