It was an unimaginable crime. An adoptive mother accused of smothering her two daughters to death and storing their bodies in a freezer, and the only surviving child, just 7-years-old, who managed to escape her home after years of abuse.
The case began on September 26, 2008, when Lusby, Maryland, residents called 911 after finding a 7-year-old girl wandering the street, looking disheveled and wearing only a nightgown, authorities said.
Court documents reveal that a medical examination at Calvert Memorial Hospital uncovered the 7-year-old girl had suffered severe child abuse, including “infected sores, open legions [sic], fresh and old injuries to her head, arms, and legs”. During an interview with detectives, the girl told authorities her adoptive mother, Renee Bowman, would beat her with a “blood soaked” shoe.
The girl told police Bowman locked her in her room on the night of September 26, 2008. Fearing her mother was going to kill her, she escaped by jumping out of her bedroom window. After surviving the jump, the girl said she went door-to-door in an attempt to find aid. At that time, she was only wearing a long T-shirt, which was soaked in blood and human feces, authorities said.
After learning investigators had picked up her daughter, police said Bowman arrived at the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office and agreed to speak with them. During the interview, detectives said Bowman confessed to them that she had beaten her daughter with a hard-heeled shoe on several occasions.
Despite noticing her daughter’s wounds, Bowman told police she was afraid to take the girl to receive medical treatment because “she knew what she did was wrong and did not want to get in trouble,” according to court documents. Police said when they asked Bowman why these beatings occurred, she told them that she was angry over her daughter’s “mental capacity and that she was stressed out.” Investigators said Bowman told them that she “was out of control and needed help.”
The case, which was already disturbing enough, took an unexpected and shocking turn the following day when authorities executed a search warrant at Bowman’s residence looking for evidence of child abuse.
While investigative teams were searching Bowman’s home, police discovered two frozen bodies inside a freezer located in the basement, court documents revealed. The freezer and its contents were taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for further examination.
When authorities confronted Bowman about the freezer, police said she confessed to them that the remains encased inside were those of her two older adoptive daughters. Bowman stated to detectives that the bodies had been in the freezer since she moved from Rockville to Lusby in February 2008.
Court documents stated an examination of the remains by Assistant Medical Examiner Donna Vincenti positively identified the bodies as Bowman’s 9-year-old daughter, Minnet Cecilia Bowman, and her 7-year-old daughter, Jasmine Nicole Bowman.
An autopsy revealed the 9-year-old girl “suffered broken bones on the arms and hand prior to her death”. The 7-year-old victim suffered lacerations to her scalp. A medical examiner determined both girls died as a result of asphyxiation, according to court documents.
Police said Bowman’s live-in boyfriend, Joe Cephus Dickerson, told them that Bowman’s older daughter went missing from her Rockville, Maryland home just after Mother’s Day in 2006, and the younger girl disappeared about a month later. When he would ask Bowman where the girls were, he said Bowman told him they were living in another state with a friend.
Bowman’s surviving daughter told authorities that while they were living at their Rockville home, she and her sisters were locked in their room and not allowed to come out. The girls were forced to use a bucket in the bedroom to go to the bathroom, police said in court documents. The 7-year-old told police that Bowman “beat and choked her sisters,” and they were already gone by the time they moved to Lusby.
According to a police press release, the investigation also revealed Bowman adopted all three of the girls and continued to collect over $152,000 in remittances from a District of Columbia agency, even after she killed the two older girls.
On January 8, 2010, Bowman was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of first-degree child abuse for the crimes against her surviving daughter in Calvert County.
Testifying at Bowman’s 2010 murder trial for the death of her two sisters, the surviving daughter repeatedly referred to Bowman as her “ex-mother,” The Washington Post reported. When prosecutors asked the girl how many times her mother choked her, she replied, “I can’t remember, because she did it so often that I couldn’t keep track.”
During the trial, Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy played for jurors an audio tape of Bowman’s interview with Calvert police. "The first one, the oldest one, was wrapped in a blanket, with ice thrown on top," Bowman told the detectives in the recording, obtained by The Washington Post. The second child “was probably wrapped up in a trash bag, a green trash bag,” Bowman said.
The Washington Post reported that Bowman’s defense attorney, Alan Drew, acknowledged during the trial that Bowman abused her children, but he suggested that at least one of the girls died from natural causes and that his client didn’t kill them.
In February 2010, a Montgomery County jury convicted Bowman of two counts of first-degree murder and three counts of child abuse in the first-degree for the murders of her two older daughters. She was sentenced to a total of two life sentences plus 75 years, without the possibility of parole.
“Renee Bowman’s crime was brutal almost beyond human comprehension,” McCarthy said in a press release. “Given the opportunity as an adoptive parent to change the lives of three children, she violated that trust in unimaginable ways,” he said.
Renee Bowman is currently serving her sentence at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, Maryland.