Md. Mother Jailed After Bodies Of 2 Children Found in Freezer

By Matt Zapotosky, Petula Dvorak and Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Phillip Garrett was passing time outside a neighbor's Calvert County home, smoking a cigarette, when he noticed a girl in pigtails wandering on the street. Her pink nightgown was caked with mud, her small body covered in bruises.

"Where's your mother?" he asked. "Where are you from?"

The girl said her mother had locked her out of their home, Garrett said yesterday, recalling Friday afternoon's encounter. She said she hadn't eaten in three days. And there was more: "She let us know that she had two sisters and that 'my mother beat them to death.' "

Early Saturday, Calvert authorities made a gruesome discovery: the bodies of two children encased in ice in a freezer in the home of Renee D. Bowman, 43. Bowman has been receiving a monthly government subsidy of $2,400 to care for her three adopted children: the 7-year-old girl on the street and two others who are now officially missing.

"You think you've seen it all," Sheriff Mike Evans said yesterday in announcing the discovery, "but you haven't."

With Bowman in jail, charged with child abuse, and investigators working to piece together what happened, the case again shined a spotlight on the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, which recommended Bowman to a D.C. Superior Court judge as a suitable adoptive parent in 2001 and 2004. The girls had been wards of the D.C. government.

The child welfare agency came under fire in January after social workers failed to investigate reports of alleged child neglect by Banita Jacks, a Southeast Washington woman now charged with killing her four daughters in their home.

Yesterday, myriad questions about Bowman's adoptions went unanswered as city and court officials in the District, citing confidentiality laws, declined to reveal details of a background check of Bowman that was performed by a private contractor. They said they were unaware of her 1999 misdemeanor conviction in the District for threatening to hurt someone.

"It would be too premature, too irresponsible, to say someone along the chain messed up," Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said at a news conference. He called the case "harrowing" and "a blow to everyone's heart and psyche that we could lose two more young people."

Not until today, after the ice has thawed, will authorities be able to conduct autopsies and formally identify the victims.

The missing children would be 9 and 11, officials said. They said the 7-year-old girl is a biological sister of the 9-year-old. All three were foster children of Bowman's before she adopted the oldest child in 2001 and the other two in 2004, officials said.

The sheriff's office said in a statement that Bowman told investigators the remains in the freezer were those of her older two adopted daughters. She told them she wrapped one of the children in a plastic garbage bag and the other in a rug, officials said. She said the remains had been in the freezer since February, when she moved to Lusby from Rockville, the sheriff's office said.

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