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Maryland- 3 adopted daughters; 1 beaten, 2 dead, frozen in freezer for 7 months

By way of the Washington Post article, Calvert Woman Arrested in Deaths of Two Children:

Authorities said they found what appeared to be the bodies of two children in a “drop-in” freezer Saturday in the basement of Renee Bowman’s home on Buckskin Trail in Lusby. Sheriff’s deputies had been searching the house for evidence in connection with the alleged beating of a third child, age 7.

In a news release issued this morning, authorities said Bowman, 43, told investigators that she had adopted three daughters from the District. One of the girls was found a short distance from her home on Friday morning after escaping from a locked bedroom by jumping out the window, the Calvert sheriff’s office said.

Bowman allegedly told investigators that she had beaten that child. She also allegedly said the bodies found in the freezer were the remains of her other two daughters, and had been in the freezer at least since she moved to Lusby from Rockville in February.

The other two girls, who appear to have died in Rockville (Montgomery Co, MD, a DC area suburban county) would have been ages 11 and 9:

Authorities said the two dead children’s remains were encased in a block of ice, and their identities likely will not be confirmed until the ice melts and autopsies can be performed. They said Bowman told them the girls were born in 1999 and 1997, and adopted by her four years ago.

Home in Calvert County

(Baltimore Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum / September 29, 2008)

As for the seven year old who escaped with her life, she was a prisoner in her own adoptive “home”/hellhole:

The investigation began Friday, after neighbors on Pawnee Lane found the 7-year-old who had jumped from the second-story window of the house on Buckskin Trail, a nearby street in the same subdivision. The girl was badly bruised and apparently beaten, authorities said today. Neighbors alerted the authorities, who transported the girl to Children’s Hospital and opened a child abuse investigation.

Some time later, Bowman came to the sheriff’s office after learning deputies had found her daughter. According to investigators, “she confessed to beating the victim with a ‘hard heeled shoe.’ “

Authorities said Bowman told them the 7-year-old was rarely, if ever, permitted to leave the house. She was beaten “all over” and remains hospitalized, Evans said at the news conference.

Calvert authorities said there is no evidence that the 7-year-old was enrolled in Calvert County schools. Bowman does not have a criminal record and has not been accused of neglect or abuse in the past, they said.

Detectives obtained a search warrant for the house in an effort to find the shoe and other evidence. While searching the house, they found human remains in the freezer.

A copy of the Calvert County (Maryland) Sheriff’s press release can be found here in PDF format.

Naturally, the Baltimore Sun is also doing major coverage, Children’s remains found in Calvert Co. freezer:

Renee Bowman, 43, has been arrested on allegations that she abused her 7-year-old daughter, who was found walking barefoot on a neighborhood street Friday night.

The neighbor recounted today that the disheveled girl told him: “My mother just beats me. She just beats me to death.”

Authorities said the girl “showed signs of extreme abuse and neglect” and had fled her home Friday by jumping out of a second-floor window after she was locked in her bedroom.

Renee Bowman

The girl sounds like she barely escaped with her life:

Phillip Garrett, who said he found the 7-year-old walking on a gravel road early Friday evening with no socks or shoes, described his shock in seeing the girl. Her pink nightgown was muddied and her pigtails, fastened with pink barrettes, were matted.

Garrett, 21, was smoking a cigarette with his neighbor on his front lawn. He called out to her. “I said, ‘What’s wrong? Are you OK?’ “

According to Garrett, the girl answered, “My mother just beats me. She just beats me to death.”

Garrett, who was walking his cocker spaniel, Cocco, today as reporters from across the region descended on the rural area, described seeing the girl walking along Pawnee Lane, which intersects with Buckskin Trail. She told Garrett and his friend that her mother had “locked her out” of the house.

“She was very brave,” Garrett said. “She definitely looked like she had been through a lot.”

Garrett, who is a fashion designer and lives with his parents, said he embraced the girl, who stood stoically. He carried her into his neighbor’s home and called 911.

The girl told Garrett that she had not eaten in days, and he ordered a pizza. She requested pepperoni and ham, he said.

As they waited for about an hour, he said the girl told him she had stayed outside the whole night and had tried to knock on people’s doors but no one answered. The girl told him she attended school in Indian Head. While she never cried, she repeatedly expressed opposite emotions for her mother and father, Garrett said.

“She kept asking, ‘Is my mother going to be arrested?’” Alternately, she expressed love for her father, Garrett said.

“She was very protective of her father,” Garrett said. “He was the only one that cared. He was the one that took care of her.”

Of her two sisters, Garrett said, “She said her siblings had been beaten to death and one day, they just didn’t come back.”

The above is interesting in that it contradicts the Post article, saying that she did attend school, this will be an important contradiction to follow as whether or not she attended school may have determined much of her level of contact with the world outside the house.

In the wake of the adoptions, it looks as though these kids just fell through the cracks, no one checking to see if the girls were even alive. Had the 7 year old not gotten herself out, I think we can all guess what might well have happened. She, like her adopted sisters was on her own, left to fend for herself against her adoptive “mother”:

The girl is being treated a children’s hospital in Washington, said Moore, who declined to describe her injuries.

“She’s a hero for saving her own life,” he said. “I don’t know what would have happened if she stayed in that environment.”

And as we keep seeing in adoption abuse and murder cases, there are also animals suffering in the home as well:

Moore described the house’s exterior as typical, but he said that inside, it was “just pretty much a mess,” with four cats and a dog who all had severe cases of fleas.

A neighbor was quoted as saying she never saw the Bowman’s girls:

Nancy Sears, 60, who has lived in a home across from the Bowman residence for 18 years, said a woman and man moved into the home in February. She said a previous owner had put a new roof on the home and added vinyl siding a few years ago.

“I never, ever, ever, the whole time, saw any children,” Sears said. “No kids outside.”

Lusby is in Southern Maryland, about 50 miles from Washington DC.

I will be following this closely and will write more as more details emerge.

Maryland is my (ahem) ‘adopted’ home state. It is a study in contradictions, being both the wealthiest state in the nation but also a growing poverty rate, and a growing wage gap between the wealthiest and the poorest that is worse than the national average, a state of haves and have-nots with rich counties and poor counties. Despite the wealth concentrated in some areas of some counties, not everyone benefits, and these inequities spill over into other areas such as social services.

I have many questions about the process of these placements, how did the Bowmans adopt the three daughters and from where (other than the District, i.e. DC), public, familial or private adoptions? Did anyone ever follow up on those placements, checking in on those girls? Were they a sibling group or three separate unrelated adoptions? Etc.

Ultimately, did anyone have any responsibility to ensure these girls were even still alive post placement, or were these girls just left to the Bowmans to do with them what they would? Up to and including allegedly storing two dead adoptees in a freezer for seven months and allegedly nearly beating the third to death after starving her and isolating her from the outside world.

“Maryland, my Maryland” indeed!

On a more personal note, I’m rarely reduced to tears while doing this adoption blogging, I’ve spent the past year wadding through the murky swamps of adoption related abuse, murder, starvation, and unending cruelty, I’ve tackled the ongoing saga of how states have taken up the encouragement of child abandonment, dump laws as policy, and I’ve looked long and hard at the process by which children enter the international adoption trade, be that through child selling or kidnapping, or worse, but through it all, I’m usually more angered than saddened. But this, in my own proverbial back yard has been difficult to write. Not because it’s local, but because seven year olds in the wealthiest state in America have only themselves to depend upon. She was abandoned to an adoption that nearly killed her. An adoption that killed her two sisters.

I’ve spoken repeatedly in my blog about the need to do better by the kids.

How things like allowing parents to opt out of public schools creates a way for children to simply disappear.

At the moment, there’s a shadow of a 7 year old in a hospital not far from here who deserved a hell of a lot better. The existing SYSTEM failed her.

Whatever eventually happens to the Bowmans, we need to look at far more than one “family” and one house and instead work to create systems of prevention. Systems where the kids come first, not their abusers.

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