On 26 September, 2008, the police of Lusby, Maryland, received multiple phone-calls from worried citizens that reported seeing a young girl running down the street. She was semi-naked and appeared to be covered in feces and blood. The little girl, who was 7-years-old, was taken to a local hospital where an examination revealed that she had been the victim of violent abuse and neglect.
She said to police that she had jumped from her bedroom window to escape from her adoptive mother, who she thought was going to murder her. The police made their way to the home of her adoptive mother, Renee Bowman, with a search warrant. What they discovered inside would haunt them forever: two small frozen bodies, hidden in the basement freezer. Bowman then confessed that the two small bodies belonged to 7-year-old Jasmine and 9-year-old Minnet, her two adoptive daughters.
An autopsy revealed that Jasmine and Minnet had both died from asphyxia in May of 2006.1 It was believed that they may have been dead since the November beforehand, when Renee and the girls had moved from Rockville to Lusby. Bowman had admitted to murdering her two adoptive daughters in Rockville.2
Bowman would be charged with murder as well as attempted murder. The attempted murder charge was in relation to her other adopted daughter, the 7-year-old who had fled from the home. According to Detective Sgt. Michael Moore, when the third daughter was found, she had been suffering from horrific injuries which had been inflicted by Bowman. “The nature of the case took it to that level,” he said. She had open sores on her buttocks and lower thighs as well as marks on her neck which had been caused by a cord, rope or some other item. There were additional bruises to the girl’s hands and lips. Bowman admitted to investigators that she had beaten her third daughter with a “hard-heeled shoe.”3
As news of the grisly case swept throughout the nation, the biological relatives of Minnet said that they were wanting the surviving daughter to come and live with them. Her uncle, Ivan Randall, said that the girl had grown up knowing Minnet as her sister and he wanted to her to move to Ohio, where he lived.4
Bowman would plead guilty to abusing her third daughter and would be sentenced to 25 years in prison. However, she would plead not guilty to the two murder charges and would be ordered to stand trial. In February of 2010, the murder trial opened. Her surviving daughter would be the lead witness; she had come to court with her new foster parents. She was clutching a teddy bear as she testified against the woman she referred to as her “ex-mother.”
The little girl told the court room that she and her sisters were kept in a locked room where they were forced to use a bucket as a toilet. She said that Bowman very frequently beat her and her sisters with a baseball bat as well as a shoe. When she was asked by the prosecutor on which part of her body she was beaten the worst, she responded: “The back and the front part.” She was asked to demonstrate on the teddy beat and she pointed at its backside and crotch area. She also told the court room that Bowman would often choke her and her sisters, stating she couldn’t remember how many times “because she did it so often I couldn’t keep track.”5
She stated that Bowman told her that Jasmine and Minnet had gone to live with a friend and that she told her “I was stupid and dumb and they didn’t want to see me anymore.” The prosecution would ask why she was using the term “ex-mother” and she replied: “I just don’t like calling her by her name.”
During the trial, it would be revealed that when Bowman and the third daughter moved, Bowman would bring along the freezer containing Jasmine and Minnet’s bodies. She also continued to collect the subsidies that are given to parents who adopt special-needs children from foster care. She had received a total of around $150,000 since adopting the three girls. It was evident that she had adopted them solely for financial benefits.
The defence team would be putting forward the theory that Bowman did not intend on murdering Jasmine and Minnet. “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,” said defence attorney Alan Drew. “Renee Bowman is not guilty of first-degree premeditated murder.” The prosecution, however, would reveal that a cellmate of Bowman said that she confessed to smothering them. “She made a decision to go down, take a pillow and smother these children,” said State’s Attorney John McCarthy.6
After deliberating for just two hours, Renee Bowman would be found guilty of first-degree murder. As the verdict was read aloud, she showed no emotion. The sentencing phase would follow and the prosecution would be arguing for life without parole while the defence would be arguing for a more lenient sentence.
Bowman would be given the opportunity to speak during the sentencing phase and stated: “I am very sorry for the abuse of the girls. It haunts me. It haunts me every day.” Bowman would ultimately be sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus 75 years for the abuse. In handing down the sentence, Judge Michael J. Algeo said: “You sentenced these two young innocent children in the dawn of their lives to a death chamber, and for you that opinion is not available.”7
- Associated Press, 30 Marc, 2009 – “Md. Mother Faces Murder Charges in Girls’ Deaths”
- Associated Press, 9 October, 2008 – “Police Confirm ID of Md. Girls”
- Associated Press, 23 October, 2008 – “Freezer Remains Suspect Indicted in Child’s Abuse”
- Associated Press, 3 November, 2008 – “Relatives Want Adopted Sister of Slain Girl”
- Associated Press, 17 February, 2010 – “Child Testifies in Md. Mother’s Murder Trial”
- Associated Press, 22 February, 2010 – “Md. Mom Convicted of Killing Kids Found in Freezer”
- St. Paul Pioneer Press, 21 March, 2010 – “Maryland Woman Gets Life for Killing”