washingtonpost.com  > Print Edition > Metro

Still Tracking a Killer, 20 Years Later

Case Remains the Only Unsolved Slaying of a State Trooper in Va.

By Annie Gowen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 20, 2004; Page B04

In the 20 years since Terri Bowman-Hundley's first husband was slain, many of her memories of that night have faded into ghostly impressions: a doorbell ringing, a vase breaking, the sounds of flesh hitting flesh.

But she can remember clearly what she saw that night after the violent intruder fled and the lights came on: her husband, Virginia state Trooper Johnny R. Bowman, bleeding to death in the foyer of their Manassas home.


The slaying of Johnny R. Bowman, 31, remains the only unsolved killing of a Virginia state trooper.

_____Free E-mail Newsletters_____
• News Headlines
• News Alert

"There is one thing that is vivid in my mind. I will never forget Johnny's position on the floor," Bowman-Hundley recalled yesterday. "The blood covered all the walls and up to the ceiling."

Bowman's murder remains unsolved. Although investigators once called a news conference to announce that they were "99.4 percent certain" another trooper was involved in the slaying, no arrests have been made.

State Police officials say that they have several new leads and that, since last year, a detective has been reassigned to the case full time.

"The case is open, and we're always hopeful we're going to be able to make a charge and obtain a conviction," Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert said. "They continue to get leads. I'm not going to characterize them, but information continues to come in."

The former trooper remains a suspect, officials said.

"It hasn't changed, but if we're not 100 percent sure, we're not going to prosecute," Ebert said.

State and local police investigators once worked round-the-clock in a special office trying to solve Bowman's slaying; now the lead investigator, Special Agent Trudy Harris, works mostly alone, carefully reviewing the pages of documents and 52 boxes of evidence in the State Police division headquarters in Fairfax, looking for fresh clues.

"This is the only unsolved murder of a Virginia state trooper, and we don't want it to stay that way, " Harris said. "We want to close it. He feels like a family member."

Bowman, 31, had been on the force five years and was living with his wife and 2-year-old daughter at the time of the attack. At 4:15 a.m. Aug. 19, 1984, Bowman-Hundley said, she was awakened by the doorbell ringing. She had fallen asleep downstairs, and she heard her husband come down and answer the door.

In the darkness, she heard the attacker say, "I'm with the [expletive] power company," and then the sounds of a life-and-death struggle. Fleeing down the hallway, she saw just the shadow of the attacker as she ran to dial 911.

Her brother-in-law, Bobby Bowman, who was visiting from out of town, came downstairs to try to help his brother, she said, but was unable to catch the attacker as he fled on foot. Johnny Bowman died at Prince William Hospital about 45 minutes later. He had been stabbed more than 40 times.

"There was a lot of blood and overkill," Harris said. "[The killer] used [Bowman's] body as a punching bag, except they were punching with a knife."

The attacker left behind a curly wig, a pair of nonprescription glasses and a hard hat, now key evidence in the case. He also left behind a pair of broken lives. Bowman's daughter, Nikki, now 22 and the image of her father, says the killer cheated her out of knowing her quiet, easygoing dad.

She was 12 when she first learned the circumstances surrounding her father's death. Her mom pulled out a green-and-white scrapbook with the newspaper clippings of the killing carefully preserved, and she pored over it.

Terri Bowman-Hundley, estranged from her second husband for several years, still lives in Manassas. Bobby Bowman lives in southwestern Virginia and is in poor health. Nikki Bowman, who lives with her mother, plans to attend Northern Virginia Community College in the fall to study criminal justice, with the hope of one day becoming a state trooper.

In the years since her father's slaying, it has been easy to let hope of a resolution fade, she said.

"Sometimes I think, 'It's been 20 years, they're never going to do it, it's been too long,' " Nikki Bowman said. "I was losing hope. But there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about him. I never got to meet him, so the least I can do is continue hoping and praying that somebody will confess or know something and let somebody know about it."

Authorities ask anyone with information about the slaying to call Special Agent Trudy Harris at the Virginia State Police, 703-323-4543.


© 2004 The Washington Post Company