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Bowman jurors describe feelings after case

Bowman jurors describe feelings after case

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CLAYTON • Their work was done seven weeks before, but many of the jurors who recommended a death sentence for Gregory Bowman returned to court Friday to watch as a judge made it formal.

"We're here to support each other in our decision and see it through to the end," said Dawn, who with the others revealed only her first name.

They spoke of shock upon learning - after finding Bowman guilty Oct. 22 of the first-degree murder of a teenage girl in 1977 - that he was previously convicted of abducting two young women, accused of grabbing a third and awaiting trial for the murders of still two more.

"It was absolutely horrific for us," Dawn said. "We had no clue."

Those facts were revealed only in the penalty phase of the trial, after the jury had found Bowman guilty.

Dawn said she was so overwhelmed by the news that it triggered an asthma attack during a break. She said she refused an ambulance because she wanted to finish her work as a juror.

Testimony from three of Bowman's earlier victims led many jurors to weep, they said.

"I wished they had given us some tissues," said one named Steve. "They had to take a recess because most of us were so upset. None of us expected anything like that."

The moment also brought relief.

"We knew we got it right," said a juror named Laura.

The single issue Friday was whether Bowman, 58, should die for strangling and cutting the throat of Velda Joy Rumfelt, 16, of Kansas City, who disappeared from the Brentwood area on a visit to relatives on June 5, 1977. Her body had been found in a remote area of St. Louis County. The only direct evidence was testimony that Bowman's DNA matched semen in her underwear.

There was little suspense Friday. It would be rare, if not unprecedented, for a Missouri judge to overrule a jury's death penalty recommendation. Circuit Judge David Lee Vincent III would have had only one alternative: life in prison without parole.

Bowman declined comment before the judge read his sentence, but then objected when Vincent called him "cowardly."

"I never," Bowman said softly, interrupting the judge. "I never. I am not guilty of this."

Vincent suggested that Bowman had an opportunity but never explained during his testimony in the penalty phase of the trial how his DNA found its way into the victim's body. Defense lawyer Steve Evans corrected him, noting that it was found on her clothing.

"Obviously the evidence shows that you preyed on young females for whatever reason," Vincent said. "It was a cowardly action. ... You can think about that for the rest of your life, until you are executed."

Vincent denied a motion for a new trial from Evans, who argued that the DNA was illegally used in Missouri because Bowman only agreed to provide the sample for testing in Illinois cases. The lawyer said the issue likely would be highlighted in Bowman's appeal.

Casey Rumfelt, 27, delivered the victim's family statement to the packed courtroom, even though he was born years after his aunt died. "Greg Bowman didn't just take a little girl off the street," he said. "He took my dad's best friend and the only person he had."

Robert Haida, the state's attorney of St. Clair County, could not be reached Friday for comment on whether the sentence will have an impact on trials pending there.

Bowman was in jail for a failed abduction in Belleville when he confessed to a fellow inmate that he had killed Ruth Ann Jany, 21, and Elizabeth West, 14, in separate abductions in the same city in 1978. He was later convicted of their murders in a deal by which prosecutors would not seek a death sentence in a bench trial and he would not contest the evidence.

About two decades later, a Post-Dispatch investigation revealed how a detective plotted with the inmate to elicit the confession. An appellate court later cited that in ordering new trials, saying the defense should have been informed of it before trial.

As the new trials were delayed for years, Bowman posted bail for a brief period in 2007. Investigators, trying to link him to other crimes, made the DNA match to the Rumfelt case. Officials said he had never before been a suspect in her murder.

In interviews Friday, the jurors described 14 hours of deliberations spent re-enacting portions of the crime, drafting a timeline and sifting through every piece - including the victim's clothes.

"You can't hold a piece of her and not be changed by that," said Dawn. "We gave her a voice."

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