Md. woman who froze girls' bodies guilty of murder, abuse

This audio of Renee Bowman speaking to Calvert County Detective Ronnie Naughton in 2008 was played by prosecutors during her trial. Bowman was convicted Monday of two counts of first degree murder and three counts of first degree child offense.
By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Maryland woman described by prosecutors as a torturer and maimer of her adopted girls was convicted Monday of killing two of them and stuffing their bodies into a freezer and inflicting more than 80 injuries on the third.

"What she did was absolutely horrendous," said Laurence Foley, foreman of the jury that deliberated for about 90 minutes inside a Montgomery County courthouse. "There was an overwhelming amount of evidence."

The case stunned the region and cast a spotlight on the District's child welfare agency, which had allowed Renee Bowman to adopt the three girls. She collected $152,000 for raising the children, according to trial testimony, with many payments arriving after two of them had been dead and put in the freezer.

"This woman was in it for the money. And by killing the children, keeping them literally on ice, the money continued to flow," Montgomery County prosecutor John McCarthy said in his closing argument.

The children she killed, Minnet and Jasmine, would have been 12 and 11 now. Their bodies, 52 pounds each, were found in September 2008. Detectives could not determine when they were killed but said that they had been asphyxiated and that their bodies could have been in the freezer for more than two years.

Bowman, who faces a possible sentence of life in prison without parole, sat impassively as the five-count verdict was read, her hands clasped on a table in front of her, as they had been for much of the four-day trial. She cocked her head slightly as one of the child-abuse findings was read.

During the trial, jurors learned a lot about Bowman, 44. She kept the three girls in her Rockville house, inside a bedroom with the door lock reversed. She forced them to use a bucket as a toilet and beat them with a bat and the heel of a shoe. She moved to Charles County and Calvert County with the bodies of the girls inside the freezer, prosecutors said.

They presented e-mails that Bowman had written in recent years, showing her carrying on as if nothing was wrong.

To one friend, she joked about dispensing discipline: "I'm like the WARDEN . . . THEY HATE IT. hahaaha. How are you? You doing alright? How's your thyroid and stuff?"

To an adoption organization in South Carolina, she wrote that she wanted to add a boy to her family. "I am very much interested in Cameron. He would make a lovely addition to our loving home."

The horror to which Bowman subjected the children came to light about 17 months ago. A badly beaten 7-year-old girl was found walking down a street in Lusby, about 55 miles southeast of Washington. She told residents and police who came to her aid that she had just jumped out of the second-floor window of her home.

The girl became the trial's most compelling witness. In heart-wrenching detail, she talked about how her "ex-mother" choked her so many times she couldn't count, and how Minnet and Jasmine had been choked.

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