Murder trial begins in case of Md. woman charged with killing daughters

Date: 2010-02-17

The Maryland woman on trial for killing two of her adopted daughters and stuffing them into a freezer was actively trying to adopt more children, Montgomery County’s top prosecutor said during opening statements Wednesday in the murder case against Renee Bowman.

"She wanted a son," State's Attorney John McCarthy told jurors as part of a 35-minute opening that -- aided by autopsy photographs -- laid out how prosecutors believe that Bowman abused, maimed and tortured three adopted daughters, killing two of them.

Before their deaths, they'd been locked in a bedroom in a Rockville house and forced to urinate into a bucket, McCarthy said. Two of the children were killed by asphyxiation.

After her arrest, Bowman told investigators she smothered them, McCarthy said.

The surviving daughter, who is living with foster parents, was set to testify later Wednesday.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Ron Gottlieb spoke for about five minutes, and didn't offer a specific alternative version of events. But he said there was more to the case than what McCarthy had said, and implored jurors to keep an open mind.

"There is not enough evidence to convict Renee Bowman of first-degree murder," Gottlieb said.

McCarthy, speaking forcefully only a few feet from the jury box, said Bowman subjected the girls to a "house of horrors in Rockville" before killing two of the girls.

"She stuffed them into this freezer," McCarthy said, as an image of a freezer was projected.

Police have said Bowman moved from Rockville to Charles County to Calvert County, with the bodies in the freezer -- an assertion McCarthy repeated in court. The girls were stuffed into a chest-type freezer, which has a door on the top.

Another photo projected for jurors showed an image after the freezer door was lifted. Jurors could see what looked to be a toe, coming through a dark, plastic garbage bag, surrounded by cubed ice. "We are actually looking at the body of Jasmine Bowman," McCarthy said.

McCarthy played to jurors an audio tape of Bowman's interview with Calvert County detectives.

"The first one, the oldest one, was wrapped in a blanket, with ice thrown on top," Bowman told the detectives, according to the recording.

The second child "was probably wrapped up in a trash bag, a green trash bag," Bowman said.

She calmly sat through the morning’s proceedings, with little expression on her face.
McCarthy also read an e-mail Bowman had written to a friend while the family lived in Rockville.

"The girls, well, they're being themselves. They hate for me to be home, because I'm like the warden in the movie, the Green Mile, the guard used to walk the corridor and say, 'Dead man walking.' I do that when they’re about to get in trouble. They hate it. Hahaha."

-- Dan Morse

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