A key defense witness in a Howard County police case was abducted in Columbia by two men early yesterday, dragged by the neck for nearly a mile along a bike path and then dumped unconscious in a culvert, police reported.
It was the latest in a series of unresolved events that have rocked the Oakland Mills Village community of Columbia since January.
The abducted man, Columbia resident Jeffrey Phipps, 22, was to have testified yesterday in the trial of his friend and next-door neighbor, Mickey Bowie, who was charged with resisting arrest at a party in January.
Bowie's twin brother, Carl Jonathan Bowie, was found dead two months ago, hanging from the baseball field backstop of his old high school, Oakland Mills. Howard police at first ruled it a suicide, but reclassified it as an "unattended death" and reopened the case after Bowie's family and friends raised questions about the way he died.
Phipps told police that he was roped from behind about 1 a.m. while alone at the Oakland Mills High School baseball field where Bowie had died. He said he was forced along the bike path by at least two silent men whose faces he could not see because they were choking him with a rope or wire, according to police.
Phipps told police that he lost consciousness when he was dumped in the woods near Good Lion Road, and then came to around 3 a.m. He went to the nearby home of a friend and called police, who took him to Howard County General Hospital where he was treated for a bruised windpipe and lacerations on his back and neck.
Phipps was expected to testify about the events surrounding the arrests of the Bowie brothers in January at the Red Roof Inn in Jessup.
The brothers were charged with resisting arrest after two Howard County police officers arrived to break up a noisy party of about 20 young people. Phipps had rented the room for the party, according to the mother of the Bowie twins, Sandra Keyser.
Phipps had been called to court yesterday to testify about way the Bowies were treated by the arresting officers, Bowie defense attorney Maria Cristina Gutierrez said.
After their arrest the night of the party, the Bowies filed excessive force complaints against Officers Victor Riemer and Ricky Johnson, saying the officers had beaten, kicked and choked them. A Howard County grand jury is scheduled to review the complaint July 19.
At the urging of Bowie supporters who organized a Columbia-wide petition drive, Howard County State's Attorney William Hymes asked the Maryland State Police to investigate the death separately.
Friends and relatives contend that Carl Jonathan Bowie was not depressed and was an improbable candidate for suicide. Police later reported that at the time of his death, Bowie had a blood-alcohol level of 0.22 percent. Under Maryland law, a person with a blood alcohol level higher than 0.10 percent is considered too intoxicated to drive.
Phipps, a ring of red lacerations around his neck, arrived at the District Court in Ellicott City yesterday, where he was immediately surrounded by a crowd of about 30 friends and other supporters of the Bowie brothers who had come to testify at the trial.
"How many teenagers have to die before they believe us?" Keyser cried out, referring to initial conclusions by the police that her son had died by suicide rather than foul play.
Phipps would not talk to reporters, but told police and friends that about 1 a.m. he had gone to sit on a bench near the backstop where the hanging had occurred "to say goodbye to Jon." He and other friends of Bowie had held a candlelight vigil at the backstop earlier in the evening. It was the second such vigil since the hanging.
"He said a rope around his neck cut his air off, and he collapsed," Keyser said yesterday, in an account confirmed by police. "He was led like a dog through the woods" with a sharp instrument poking his back.
Mickey Bowie's trial was postponed yesterday until November.