Md. mother pleads guilty to severe child abuse

Date: 2009-09-11
Source: wtop.com

By SARAH KARUSH
Associated Press

PRINCE FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - A Maryland woman accused of killing two of her adopted daughters and keeping their bodies in a freezer for months pleaded guilty Friday to severely abusing a third girl.

Renee Bowman, 44, pleaded guilty to first-degree child abuse in Calvert County Circuit Court. She could receive up to 25 years in prison for the crime.

Separately, she faces scheduled trial in November in Montgomery County on first-degree murder charges in the deaths of the two other girls.

Bowman said little at the hearing before Judge Marjorie L. Clagett. Asked if she had adequate time to review the plea deal, Bowman replied, "Yes, most definitely, your honor."

Calvert County State's Attorney Laura L. Martin said she was relieved that Bowman pleaded guilty because it meant the victim won't have to testify.

"She was, to say the least, very frightened to see her mother again," Martin said. "That baby lived in a house of horrors."

Bowman's adopted daughter, then 7, was found nearly a year ago wandering around her Lusby neighborhood after jumping from a window. She was wearing a bloodstained nightshirt and had sores and lesions on much of her body.

Martin said the girl is permanently disfigured from the abuse and half of her upper lip is missing. Martin said the girl also had bite marks on her elbow and toe, and infections and scarring that indicated "systematic and constant physical abuse."

Authorites subsequently searched Bowman's house and found the frozen remains.

At Friday's hearing, Martin said Bowman wasn't home when police arrived and they entered through an open back window that the girl had jumped from.

The room, which was locked from the outside, contained a child's bed, but no toys or clothes. A trash can apparently had been used as a toilet.

In the house, police found numerous blood stains, including a child's bloody handprint on the inside of a closet door, Martin said. The girl had told police that Bowman often beat her with heeled shoes, and police found three shoes stained with blood.

Bowman came to the sheriff's office after authorities called her on her cell phone and told her that her daughter had been found. She told police she hit the child with a flip-flop, but didn't think that was wrong. She claimed to be home-schooling the girl, but the girl could not read or write, Martin said.

As Martin listed the horrors police found, Bowman at times appeared to furrow her brow in disagreement. Afterward, public defender Dorothy Gardner-Hodge told the judge that Bowman did not agree with all of the details but agreed that such evidence would have been presented by prosecutors had the case gone to trial.

All three of Bowman's daughters were adopted from the District of Columbia, and Bowman was receiving subsidies from D.C. for all of them even after the deaths of the older two. Adoptive parents are entitled to such payments for special needs children.

Bowman had been charged with attempted murder in Calvert County. However, Martin said after the hearing that prosecutors would have needed to introduce evidence about the deaths of the other girls and about the subsidies, both of which Clagett ruled were too prejudicial.

Authorities have concluded the two older girls were killed in Montgomery County, where the family lived until the fall of 2007. They say Bowman took the freezer with the bodies with her when she moved first to Charles County and finally to Calvert County in February 2008.

Bowman told the judge Friday that she has a high-school education and certification as medical assistant. She said she was taking six medications for various ailments, including depression.

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