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Shopping On eBay As Girls Lay Dead

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By Petula Dvorak, Meg Smith and Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 3, 2008

As summer neared an end, and the bodies of two children lay in her basement freezer, Renee Bowman sat at her computer and went shopping for a fall wardrobe.

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She considered faux-fur cropped jackets and bought a pair of cheap ones, size XXL, on eBay. She pondered inexpensive jewelry before buying a gold ring with fake diamonds shaped into a heart for $27.01 and a gold bracelet that said "I Love You" for $36.

On Saturday, when police found the bodies, they charged Bowman with abusing her 7-year-old adopted daughter and began building a case against her in the deaths of the two children, presumed to be her older adopted daughters.

But that fact-finding is unlikely to answer one of the questions that make the case so horrifying: How could a mother go on with life knowing that her daughters lay encased in ice in the freezer?

No more than a glimpse and a wave to most of her neighbors in Lusby, a Calvert County town on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, Bowman, 43, is best known to a very few friends and neighbors on Linden Place, the Northeast Washington street where she spent much of her childhood and teenage years.

Those people mostly have recoiled in silence when asked for details, but the ones who have talked and various official sources give a view of a woman whose early life was violent and destructive, who in high school was taunted about the odd shape of her head and who more recently spent hours at her desktop computer e-mailing friends, making dozens of purchases on eBay and, according to one friend, meeting men whom she later dated.

She also showed flashes of rage and violence in adulthood.

Bowman told investigators that anger and stress drove her to beat the 7-year-old bloody with the heel of a white sandal. She also told them that one daughter died of starvation and the other died after falling down. The two girls were born in 1997 and 1999. Just when they died is not yet clear, but law enforcement authorities say they could have been in the freezer for a year.

Her youngest daughter fled through a window after being locked in her room, and her bedraggled condition and "extensive" open wounds led police to the modest tan frame house on Buckskin Trail last Friday.

Dirty and flea-infested, the house was otherwise unremarkable.

Notably absent was any evidence of drugs or alcohol, common factors in cases of child abuse or neglect, police said.

Although she had a boyfriend -- sometimes identified as her husband -- who had been seen visiting the Lusby home, she seemed cautious and at times tentative in her personal interactions.

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