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Md. woman sentenced for severe child abuse

Posted on: January 9, 2010

Md. woman sentenced for severe child abuse

By: SARAH KARUSH
Associated Press
01/08/10 5:49 PM EST

PRINCE FREDERICK, MD. — An 8-year-old girl with scars on most of her body from regular beatings by the woman she used to call “Mommy” confronted her abuser in court Friday, telling her: “I do not think you will be going to heaven.”

The woman, Renee Bowman, is accused of killing the girl’s two older sisters and keeping their bodies in a freezer for months. She was sentenced Friday in Calvert County Circuit Court to 25 years in prison for the abuse of the surviving girl. Bowman, 44, pleaded guilty in September to first-degree child abuse.

She faces a separate trial on murder charges in Montgomery County, where the family lived previously and where her other daughters are believed to have been killed.

All three girls were former foster children adopted from the District of Columbia, and Bowman continued to collect subsidies for all of them from the D.C. government even after the older children were killed.

The surviving girl, who was 8 months old when Bowman became her foster mother, was found wandering around her Lusby neighborhood in a bloodstained nightshirt after escaping through a window in September 2008.

Police searched the home and found the bodies in the freezer, as well as a high-heeled shoe used to beat the youngest. Feces and urine were found in the girl’s bedroom and in a closet because she had been locked in both places, Calvert County State’s Attorney Laura L. Martin said. The child had human bite marks and shoe marks on her body, a piece of her lip was missing, and she had broken bones that improperly healed, Martin said. The girl could not read and authorities found no evidence that she had ever been to school.

The girl, who was dressed neatly in a black and white dress and came to the hearing with the therapist and her foster parents, appeared to shudder and put her head on her foster mother’s shoulder when Bowman was first led into the courtroom. But moments later she laughed loudly after her foster mother whispered something in her ear.

The girl was led out of the courtroom while Martin described the abuse. After she was brought back in, Martin asked her if she wanted to make a statement. Clutching a piece of paper, she walked to the front of the courtroom with her therapist by her side.

“You should never do things to little girls or little boys because God sees you and will put you on the liars list. I do not think you will be going to heaven,” she told Bowman in a barely audible voice. Martin later provided a copy of the statement.

“I’m happy now. I know my math. I read. I am in the first grade. It’s amazing I got that far,” she added. “I have a lot of people who love me.”

Martin said the girl made a point of reading the statement to prove she could read to Bowman, who claimed the girl couldn’t learn.

Before Judge Marjorie L. Clagett handed down the sentence, Bowman apologized to the judge and to the victim.

“I’m very remorseful. I don’t know what happened. I’m very sorry for my actions. … I wish her the best with her family and I’m proud of her,” she said. “Despite what Ms. Martin says, I do have love in my heart for her.”

Bowman claimed she tried to return the girl to the adoption agency after she realized she couldn’t handle her.

Public defender Dorothy Gardner-Hodge, in arguing for a lower sentence, said Bowman was abused as a child and in foster care from an early age. She said her mother and sister both suffer from mental illness and that Bowman suffers from chronic pain and has been treated for breast cancer.

Clagett sentenced Bowman to the maximum sentence allowed because of the horrific nature of the crime. She said she wouldn’t rule out sending her to serve her sentence at the Patuxent Institution, a psychiatric treatment facility that is part of Maryland’s corrections system. However, she said she would need more information before she did so.

Clagett said the system failed the girl, but told Bowman: “You were her mother. You were meant to protect her and nurture her, and all that happened was just the opposite.”

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