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CALVERT COUNTY

Daughter of Abuse Suspect Is Released From Hospital

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By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 4, 2008

The 7-year-old girl whose escape from her mother's Calvert County home led to the discovery last week of two children's bodies in a basement freezer has been released from a hospital and placed with a local foster family, a source familiar with the girl's condition said yesterday.

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The girl, who was admitted to the hospital late last week with open, infected sores and countless bruises has made "steady progress on the physical front," the source said.

The discovery that the girl's mother, Renee Bowman, 43, had stored the bodies of the two children in a freezer sent shockwaves through the neighborhood where she lived for the past seven months. It left her neighbors in Lusby wondering whether they had missed warning signs and whether there was anything they could have done to lessen the tragedy.

"I just feel so dirty," Nickie Clark, 34, said. "Every time I close my eyes, I see her."

As investigators reconstruct Bowman's move from Montgomery County last year to Charles County and then to Calvert, bringing with her the frozen bodies of two children presumed to be her older adopted daughters, Bowman's neighbors have shifted their focus to helping her 7-year-old daughter.

Clark is collecting clothes and toys to help the girl. Phillip Garrett, a fashion designer who found the girl meandering down the street, is designing a dress he hopes to auction in several months. The proceeds will go toward a certificate of deposit for her, he said.

"We can't control where she's going to go now," Garrett said. "There is something which we can do to assist her when she gets older to ensure that her life will be far, far much better than her childhood ever was."

To protect her privacy, officials have declined to release details about her condition, what services she might be offered and when she might enroll in school. The source who said she had been discharged from the hospital spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not been officially released.

An expert in treating abused children said the psychological consequences of such trauma might include distrust of others, low self-esteem and depression. But children are resilient, said the expert, Bette L. Bottoms, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"If she gets the right psychological services that can be supportive, then she absolutely can develop normally and have a normal life," Bottoms said.

Bowman, jailed on child abuse charges, told police that she brutally beat her 7-year-old daughter and that she said she put the other two girls, who would be 9 and 11, in the freezer when she was living near Rockville. She told police that one of the girls starved to death and that the other died after falling.

The medical examiner has not determined how the girls died or formally identified them as Bowman's adopted daughters.

The case has prompted questions about the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, which recommended her as a suitable adoptive parent even though she had filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001, the year she adopted one foster child, and had just emerged from it in 2004, when she adopted two others. She got $800 a month for each child.

A caseworker with the Maryland Department of Human Resources visited Bowman's Charles home in January after an anonymous caller alleged "child neglect," the department said in a statement. The caseworker noticed a "smell of mildew" but found Bowman's home to be "clean and appropriately furnished," according to the statement. Bowman told the caseworker that a water leak in the basement caused the smell.

The caseworker found dogs and cats in the home and reported that Bowman's daughter was "of appropriate weight and good health," the statement said. The caseworker found no evidence of neglect.

The allegation did not surface earlier in the week because Bowman was using a fictitious name while she lived in Charles, according to the statement. The department declined to comment beyond the statement.

Anyone who wants to donate money, clothes, toys or other items for the girl can send them to the Calvert County Department of Social Services, care of Calvert's Child, 200 Duke St., Prince Frederick, Md. 20678.


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