A 24-year-old Washington man who couldn't pay $100 bond on a trespassing charge hanged himself in his Alexandria City Jail cell early yesterday morning, jail officials said.
Dennis Bowens, formerly of 60 T St. NW but lately of no fixed address, was found hanging in his single cell at 3 a.m. Thursday by a jail guard making a routine security check. Bowens had been jailed for two weeks and was awaiting trial Oct. 6.
Bowens' father, Theodore, a custodian at Providence Hospital, said yesterday that Dennis was a "quiet type of dude" who "wanted a fast way up and he didn't want to have to take the time and sit down and do it right.
"Dennis kept saying to me nobody would help him. I tried. I gave him a little money now and then, but he just wouldn't keep a job or abide by my rules so I put him out," said the elder Bowen, who has four other children, including Dennis' twin sister.
Bowens said his son had been kicked out of the Job Corps at age 21, had a drug problem and couldn't pass the test to get into the Army. But he added that he couldn't imagine Dennis committing suicide.
According to records in Alexandria District Court, Bowens was first arrested for trespassing on Aug. 12, when he was found in the Presidential Gardens Apartments and Hotel on Mount Vernon Avenue and Russell Road in Alexandria. In the court documents, the manager of the hotel, William C. Roche, said "he couldn't make heads or tails of him (Bowens) and called the police." Bowens, he said, knew no one who lived at the hotel, though his lawyer, Charles Cox, said he believed Bowens had a girlfriend who lived there.
When police arrived, Bowens was told to leave the hotel, but later that same day returned and was arrested. On Sept. 10, Bowens was sentenced by Chief Judge Daniel F. O'Flaherty to one day in jail.
Six days later, Roche found Bowens in the hotel again. Bowens was again arrested on trespassing charges and placed in the Alexandria City Jail in lieu of $100 bond. Though Roche was unavailable for comment yesterday, a Presidential spokesman said Bowens "clearly needed psychological treatment."
District school records show he attended Emery, Birney, Lewis and Perry elementary schools and Shaw Junior High School. School officials said they could not immediately determine what high school Bowen had attended or whether he had graduated. Theodore Bowens said his son had attended Dunbar High.
Until recently, Bowens had lived with his father in a one-bedroom basement apartment at 60 T St. NW. Their landlord, who asked not to be identified, said the father and son lived there for six months.
On several occasions, the landlord said, police were called to break up violent arguments between the father and son. D.C. Superior criminal court records show that Dennis Bowens was arrested by D.C. police on Nov. 16, 1980, and charged with disorderly conduct. He was sentenced to one day in jail and a $5 fine.
On Sept. 16, when Bowen was arrested on the second trespassing charge in Alexandria, Alexandria Deputy Sheriff Bob O'Bannon said, Bowens "refused to cooperate with booking procedures." He was placed in a general population cellblock.
Then, O'Bannon said, after "several hostile and aggressive incidents," including two fights with jail guards, Bowens was moved to a single cell.
According to jail reports, Bowens had not exhibited suicidal tendencies and was under the standard jail security in which a deputy looks in on prisoners every 15 to 20 minutes. Bowens' cell, according to the jail report, had been checked at 2:40 a.m. and nothing unusual was found.
Twenty minutes later, on the next check, Bowens was found hanging by a bedsheet in his cell. No signs of life were found when the body was taken down. There was no suicide note.
Jail authorities said Bowens was the first to commit suicide at the jail in six years. "The damned thing's a tragedy," said court-appointed attorney, Thomas Bepko, who was to defend Bowens at his Oct. 6 trial. "I can't believe it happened."
"I can't really say much more," he said. "I'm trying to run down the details and understand it myself first."