By Dan Morse and Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 10, 2008
Montgomery County detectives have tentatively identified the bodies of two girls found in a Calvert County freezer as adopted daughters of Renee Bowman, police said yesterday.
But the medical examiner has not yet determined how the children died, and until authorities review fingerprints, genetic material or additional photographs, they might not provide a formal identification good enough to use in court.
"If someone could be charged with a crime, you don't want it to be for killing Person X," said David R. Fowler, Maryland's chief medical examiner. "For justice, an appropriate prosecution, as well as a defense, the ID needs to be the best that we can make it."
Montgomery police said a family friend helped identify the children as Jasmine Nicole Bowman, who would be 9, and Minnet C. Bowman, who would be 11. The girls' names were made public yesterday.
Although the bodies were discovered in Calvert, officials have said the deaths probably occurred in Montgomery, where Bowman lived in the Aspen Hill area until last fall. Officials said yesterday that detectives aren't certain when, where or how the children died.
The medical examiner's office has done "the physical work" to determine the cause of death, authorities said, and laboratory tests that will take several weeks to complete are underway.
Fowler said that in the absence of conflicting evidence, a photograph was used to arrive at a "presumptive ID." Presumptive IDs are often used in the course of police investigations but are less than ideal in potential homicide cases.
Fowler said his office is using the girls' presumptive IDs to search for fingerprint, dental and DNA records that could verify their identities scientifically.
"Were they photographed by official agencies, fingerprinted, or were other records kept?" Fowler asked. "What about where they were born? Were any specimens, DNA saved? We are exploring every avenue available to get an absolute, positive ID. That's what we owe them."
Fowler said that his office has yet to receive such records and that it is unclear whether any were catalogued as part of the adoption process in the District.
In general, he said, it can be more difficult to find such identifying information for children than for adults. Often, children have not had corrective or restorative dental work that would make for unique dental X-rays.
"Children don't have driver's licenses and photo IDs," Fowler said. "You can get backed into a corner very quickly trying to identify them."
It also appears that the Bowman girls had no school pictures.
Law enforcement authorities say they have found no school enrollment records for the two girls or for Bowman's adopted 7-year-old daughter.
School officials in Montgomery, Prince George's, Charles and Calvert counties -- where Bowman and her children lived in the past decade -- said they had no enrollment records for the girls. The Archdiocese of Washington said the children had not attended Catholic schools, as their mother did many years ago in the District.
A child who never goes to school might not come to the attention of local officials unless someone reports the family to a government agency.
"The simple fact is that somebody moves into the county and makes no attempt to enroll a child . . . there's really no way we would know that those children are in the county but not in the school," said Kate Harrison, a spokeswoman for Montgomery public schools.
Bowman, 43, remains in jail without bond in Calvert on child abuse and assault charges related to her 7-year-old daughter, whose escape from their home last month prompted authorities to search the Lusby residence, where they found the freezer in the basement.
Detectives continue to try to put together a timeline of where and when the girls were seen alive. The detectives want anyone who had contact with either of the girls to call them at 240-773-5070.
Staff writers Daniel de Vise and Megan Greenwell contributed to this report.