Young Deaths That Diminish Us All

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, October 4, 2008

The discoveries of the bodies of two girls encased in ice this week and of the decomposed bodies of four sisters earlier this year raise questions that go to the heart of what we mean when we speak of community.

Two mothers, Renee Bowman and Banita Jacks, are now jailed in connection with these ghastly events.

Bowman is suspected of killing two of her adopted daughters and hiding their bodies in a freezer; she is also charged with abusing a third daughter.

Jacks has been indicted on charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of her four daughters. She has pleaded not guilty; her trial is set for Dec. 1.

Bowman's and Jacks's stories have yet to be told. We don't know exactly what happened. We don't know how, perhaps, those mothers arrived at the point of deciding that their daughters' lives were not worth living.

We also don't know why Bowman and Jacks, if the reports are true, put innocent children through such unimaginable suffering.

Jacks's youngest daughter, age 5, was strangled and beaten. Two of her sisters, ages 6 and 11, had been strangled. The oldest daughter, 16, had puncture wounds on her abdomen. The girls had been dead for as long as six months when their bodies were discovered in January.

Bowman's two daughters, who would now be 9 and 11, may have been in that freezer for more than a year -- one wrapped in a rug; the other in a plastic garbage bag.

Those women will have their dates with the law.

But given what is known now about the circumstances of those deaths, we, as a community, need a date with ourselves.

How can seven girls disappear from public view and not be missed?

The discovery of the two frozen bodies this week happened only because the dead girls' 7-year-old sister was found wandering a Calvert County street wearing a mud-caked nightgown.

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