Girls Might Have Been Dead More Than a Year, Police Say

Officials are focusing on the backyard at the former home of a woman suspected of killing two of three adopted daughters and keeping one in a freezer. Video by AP
By Matt Zapotosky and Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Two children whose frozen bodies were found in Calvert County might have been dead for a year or more, hidden in a large freezer and moved from house to house since last fall by the adoptive mother suspected of killing them, authorities said yesterday.

Renee D. Bowman, 43, who arrived in Calvert in February, "indicated" in an interview that the bodies were in the freezer when she moved out of her former residence in the Rockville area, investigators have said. Yesterday, authorities revealed that she left that area last October or November and then stayed briefly in Prince George's or Charles County before moving to Calvert.

"At this point in time, everything is looking like she left Montgomery County with the freezer," said Detective Sgt. Michael Moore of the Calvert sheriff's office.

The case continued to raise questions about D.C. child welfare services yesterday, three days after the bodies were found. The D.C. Child and Family Services Agency recommended Bowman as a suitable adoptive parent even though she 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. In between, she lost her Landover house to foreclosure.

Bowman, now jailed on child abuse charges, had also been convicted in 1999 of a misdemeanor charge of "threatening bodily harm" to a 72-year-old man.

"We want to know how did this person . . . qualify to become an adoptive parent?" said D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), chairman of the Committee on Human Services and a former social worker. "Is there anything we don't know or should have known that would have prevented the adoption?"

Acting Attorney General Peter Nickles said he was not aware of the bankruptcy filings or the misdemeanor conviction and does not believe that the information was included in a home visit report generated by a private contractor.

"That was not revealed. At least, I don't think it was revealed," he said. "I'm not saying . . . that I've seen everything."

Bowman is being held without bond on charges relating to her youngest daughter, a 7-year-old. The two other children, who would be 9 and 11, are officially missing. Autopsies to confirm the victims' identities were expected to be completed today.

Detectives used a cadaver-sniffing dog to search for evidence yesterday in the house near Rockville that was once occupied by Bowman and her three adopted children. Late in the afternoon, investigators armed with shovels dug up a portion of the yard where a lack of grass had drawn suspicion -- to no avail.

"The dirt is clean," Montgomery police Capt. Patty Walker said after the search was complete. "There's nothing to sift through."

The task of collecting evidence at the house, in the 13100 block of Vandalia Court, was made more difficult because Bowman moved from there a year ago and the residence was later renovated, authorities said.

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