Prosecutor calls Bowman murder case one of worst he has seen

Date: 2010-02-24
Source: gazette.net

Jury finds Southern Maryland woman guilty of killing two daughters

by Nathan Carrick

When the verdict came back guilty on all counts in the case of a Southern Maryland woman who murdered two of her adopted daughters and stuffed their bodies in a freezer, it ended a dark week in the courtroom for Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy.

"We've had some vile acts of child abuse in Montgomery County, but I think this case sort of stands alone when compared with the others," McCarthy said.

A Montgomery County jury on Monday found Renee Bowman, 44, guilty of killing her two daughters when the family lived in Aspen Hill several years ago. She smothered them and stuffed their bodies in the freezer that she carried to Charles and then Calvert counties after she left Montgomery County.

The jury of 10 men and two women returned a verdict in about two hours and 15 minutes, also convicting Bowman on three counts of child abuse for the two deceased daughters and one surviving girl. The trial lasted less than a week.

Bowman will be sentenced on March 22.

One of Bowman's defense attorneys, Alan C. Drew, did not want to comment on the verdict, saying only that the defense plans to file an appeal at the sentencing.

McCarthy, who served as lead prosecutor, said he will seek a life sentence without the possibility of parole if the judge deems it appropriate. Life with the possibility of parole is the standard sentence, he said.

"This was a horrific trial, the details of injuries the like of which I've never seen," McCarthy said after the verdict was returned. "It is beyond my comprehension how any human being could do this to children."

McCarthy took a more involved approach to prosecuting the case because of the grisly nature of the crimes.

"Because of the nature of the acts committed against these children, I had a strong personal reaction from early on," he said the day after the verdict was announced.

He gave the opening and closing remarks in the case, something normally split between first- and second-chair attorneys, and often spoke passionately during the trial.

One of the things that disturbed McCarthy the most was how visible the back yard of the home in Aspen Hill where the Bowmans lived was, and how police were never able to find a single neighbor who saw any of the children at the house during the two years they lived there.

"No one, no one ever saw these children outside," he said. "As a father of four, I could not imagine that."

He was also troubled by the fact that even with an assault conviction and bankruptcy filing, the District of Columbia adoption agency still allowed Bowman to adopt the three girls.

"The adoption records are sealed, even to us," he said. "So the question becomes, did you find what we found and let her adopt the kids anyway, or did you not find what we found, and why didn't you find it?"

The D.C. social service department has not answered its telephones or returned calls seeking comment for more than a year.

McCarthy said his children all knew about the case since he had the photographs and documents spread over his kitchen table while preparing for trial during the recent snowstorms.

"It's really sort of beyond their imagination to believe a person who is supposed to love and take care of you could treat someone this way," he said.

Jury foreman Laurence Foley said the deliberation process was quick.

"There was an overwhelming amount of evidence," he said after the trial ended. "That made many of the decisions pretty straightforward."

Foley said the only sticking point for the jury was deciding whether the murder of Minnet Bowman was first- or second-degree murder.

"What she did was absolutely appalling," he said. "It was a very hard trial."

Michael Mohamed, the biological father of Jasmine and the surviving daughter, attended much of the trail.

"I'm happy justice prevailed, but I'm happy this is over," he said.

Bowman abused and murdered Jasmine, then 8, and Minnet, then 10, and abused a 9-year-old surviving daughter when the four lived in Montgomery County from 2005 to 2007.

She had adopted all three girls at a young age in Washington, D.C., but the exact dates have not been available.

Bowman was originally indicted in Calvert County in October 2008 after neighbors found the third daughter, then 7, wandering the streets near Bowman's home covered in bruises and wearing a blood-soaked shirt.

Bowman pleaded guilty to a first-degree child abuse charge in Calvert County in September and in January was sentenced to 25 years in prison by Circuit Court Judge Marjorie Clagett.

Bowman lowered her head slightly when the verdict was read Monday, but showed little emotion throughout the trial, often appearing uninterested.

McCarthy said Bowman's guilt was overwhelmingly proven in every count against her.

"This was her signature, this was her crime, she smothered these children," he said.

"An accident occurs, do you strip your children naked, wrap them in duct tape and put them in a freezer" he said. "No way. An innocent person does not do what she did. Those are the actions of someone who has willfully taken the life of another human being."

On an audio recording of Bowman talking to police on the night she was first arrested in Calvert County, she was heard saying that Minnet had a stomach virus and was found dead in her bed and that she had shaken and shoved Jasmine during an argument, causing her to fall backward, hit her head on a dresser and die instantly.

Drew, a public defender assigned to Bowman, said in his closing arguments that he conceded that his client was guilty on the three counts of child abuse, but was not guilty of first-degree murder.

"Was this a horrendous crime? No doubt. Was this a terrible crime, no doubt," he said. "Renee Bowman did not kill either of those children with premeditation. No evidence was presented that would support premeditation.

"Now I'm not going to insult your intelligence and say she did not hurt those children," he told the jury. "We accept that responsibility for what she did. We also ask you to find us guilty of what we in fact did."

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