ROCKVILLE, Md. – A Maryland woman who adopted three children despite a troubled past was convicted Monday of murdering two of the girls, whose bodies were stored in a freezer as the woman continued collecting payments meant to help with their care.
Renee Bowman, 44, kept the bodies of the two young girls on ice for months while she continued to collect subsidies paid to parents who adopt special-needs children in the District of Columbia, receiving a total of about $150,000 since adopting the girls.
The bodies were found after the third daughter escaped by jumping out a window. The girl, now 9 and living with new foster parents, testified in the murder trial last week about the abuse she and her sisters endured — being beaten with a baseball bat and shoes and choked until they lost consciousness.
The girl's older sisters, Minnet and Jasmine Bowman, were both younger than 10 when they died, though authorities were never able to determine exactly when the murders occurred. Nobody knew they were missing, and there are no records the children were ever enrolled in school. Prosecutors said Bowman killed them while the family was living in Rockville and took the freezer with her when the family moved first to Charles County and later to Lusby, in Calvert County.
Bowman showed no emotion as she listened to the verdict — guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree child abuse. Jurors deliberated for about two hours.
Prosecutors said they would ask for life in prison without the possibility of parole when Bowman is sentenced March 22. Bowman's attorneys did not immediately return a call seeking comment. She has already been sentenced to 25 years in prison in Calvert County for abusing the surviving girl.
Afterward, jurors said the main issue was whether to convict her of first- or second-degree murder. Bowman's lawyer had argued the killings weren't premeditated.
"I am not going to insult your intelligence and say to you that she did not hurt those children, that she did not abuse those children," public defender Alan Drew told the jury. "Renee Bowman is not guilty of first-degree premeditated murder."
However, prosecutors argued the killings were deliberate, and Bowman's former cellmate testified that Bowman confided to her that she smothered them.
"She made a decision to go down, take a pillow, and smother these children," Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said in his closing arguments.
During her testimony, the surviving girl clutched a Valentine's Day teddy bear as she told the jury about the abuse she suffered at the hands of the woman she called her "ex-mother"
She said she and her sisters were kept in a locked room in their Rockville home.
"There was a bucket where we went to the bathroom because we weren't allowed out of the room," she said.
McCarthy asked the girl where she had been beaten the worst. Asked to demonstrate on the bear, she pointed to its backside and its crotch.
The girl often waved happily at her foster mother during the testimony and talked about the books she likes to read. That contrasted sharply to a photo McCarthy showed that was taken in the hospital after she was found. In the photo, she stares with frightened eyes and part of her lip is missing — a result of the abuse, authorities say.
Bowman was able to adopt the children despite being convicted of threatening a 72-year-old man over damage to her car. She also had filed for bankruptcy, even though D.C. officials said financial stability is a requirement for adoption.