Mother of frozen children assuaged caseworker

Date: 2008-10-04

Mother of frozen children assuaged caseworker

October 4, 2008
Brian Westley
ASSOCIATED PRESS

A state social services agency investigated a neglect complaint at the home of a Maryland woman suspected of killing and freezing her two adopted daughters, but officials said Friday the caseworker found nothing unusual.

The caseworker visited Renee Bowman's Lusby home in January, the state Department of Human Resources said. The agency said it received an anonymous call about one child, who was found to be in good health, but agency spokeswoman Nancy Lineman refused to release any other details about the visit.

Police found the bodies of two children a week ago encased in ice in a basement freezer and authorities have said the children were likely dead since at least last fall.

Miss Bowman has told investigators the remains are those of her daughters - ages 9 and 11 - but authorities are awaiting autopsy results to confirm their identities. She is charged with first-degree child abuse in the beating and neglect of a third adopted daughter, who was 7 when she was found.

Miss Bowman, 43, was a foster mother to all three girls before adopting them in 2001 and 2004. The children were considered "special needs" - a broad category that includes any foster child over age 5.

One of Miss Bowman's friends said on Friday that the mother was verbally abused as a child and troubled by seeing her mother become homeless.

Miss Bowman also had complained that her daughters were having difficulty learning, and talked about moving the family to North Carolina in hopes of improving their situation, said Jacqueline Gordon, who attended a Catholic high school with Miss Bowman in the District and got back in touch with her two years ago.

"I think it takes a really strong and special person to take on a special needs child - let alone three," Ms. Gordon said. "I guess something just sent her over the edge and she snapped."

Miss Bowman told police last week that she no longer wanted custody of her youngest daughter, who was found wandering the neighborhood, injured and hungry, a day before the frozen remains were found.

When asked why she beat the girl, Miss Bowman said she was stressed out and angry about her daughter's mental capacity, according to charging documents.

Ms. Gordon said she spoke and e-mailed with Miss Bowman dozens of times in late 2006 after Miss Bowman found her on a high school reunion Web site. Ms. Gordon last heard from Miss Bowman in January last year. Ms. Gordon said the two fell out of touch because she was busy with school and Miss Bowman said she was caring for a sick aunt.

During their correspondence, Miss Bowman told the friend that one of her daughters had already been held back in school twice, and that all three were having trouble reading.

Public school officials in the Maryland counties where the family had lived, and other districts in the area said they have no record that the girls were ever enrolled.

Ms. Gordon, who lives in Durham, N.C., said she suggested that Miss Bowman move to the area because the schools were better. She said Miss Bowman seemed to like the idea and mentioned that her husband, Joe, was going to talk with a real estate agent.

There is no record that Miss Bowman had a husband, but police have been talking to boyfriend Joe Dickerson, who apparently sometimes lived with her.

The friend said Miss Bowman also opened up about her own troubled childhood and described being verbally abused by two great-aunts who raised her.

"She said she was always told she was trash, that she would never be anything," Ms. Gordon said.

Calvert County is accepting donations of money, clothes or gifts for Miss Bowman's surviving daughter. The address is Calvert County Dept. of Social Services, c/o: Calvert's Child, 200 Duke St., Prince Frederick, MD, 20678

• Sarah Karush in Washington and Gillian Gaynair in Bryans Road, Md., contributed to this report.

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