Bowen’s back in county – Life sentence awaits man who fled in 2000

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Jerry Lee Bowen had created quite a fictional world for himself since fleeing from his June 2000 sentencing hearing.

Bowen, who was convicted of murder in April 2000 and out on bond while awaiting sentencing, was arrested early Thursday morning in South Carolina.

He was convicted of the 1997 murder of his former wife, Brenda Breckenridge Bowen.

Bowen had assumed the name, Steven Starbuck, and was living in North Charleston, S.C., when one of his neighbors recognized who he was and contacted police.

He had even attempted to alter his fingerprints with acid, according to Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry, a move which failed and finally forced him to admit to who he really was.

Starbuck was only one of the identities Bowen had assumed during his flight, however.

Curry said during a press conference that authorities had found Social Security documents, military records, obituaries and high school diplomas during a search of his Charleston home.

Officials indicate he had even paid $19,000 in back child support for a Nevada man whose identity he had taken.

Curry and District Attorney Robby Owens traveled to South Carolina last week to make sure Bowen got back home for Christmas – home to the Shelby County Jail, that is.

The three arrived at the jail on Thursday night.

Chief assistant district attorney Bill Bostick said news of the capture of Shelby County’s most wanted criminal brought a great deal of excitement to law enforcement officials, prosecutors and county residents alike.

&uot;It’s a Merry Christmas for sure,&uot; he said. &uot;We’ve waited a long time for this.&uot;

Bowen was found guilty by a Shelby County jury after prosecutors argued that he killed his ex-wife most likely on the morning she disappeared, Jan. 29, 1997.

Three months later, her body washed up on the banks of the Coosa River.

During the trial, prosecutors showed gruesome slides of her badly decomposed body which had apparently been tied with heavy logging chains and dumped into the river.

Bowen, 52 at the time of his conviction, soon posted a bond of $150,000 and was expected to remain out of jail until his sentencing in June 2000.

When that day rolled around, however, Bowen was nowhere to be found.

Bostick said (Bowen) had left a note at his Shelby County home expressing appreciation to his attorneys and indicating that he was not going to serve a sentence for a crime he continued to claim he did not commit.

In his absence, Judge Oliver Head sentenced Bowen to life in prison.

&uot;I am glad to see that recent efforts by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshal’s Service have brought this fugitive to justice for the heinous crime he committed,&uot; Sheriff Chris Curry said.

At the time of Bowen’s conviction, Curry was a captain at the Sheriff’s Department.

&uot;I hope this will help the victim’s family bring some closure to this horrific event.&uot;

Chief Deputy John Samaniego said it had been a busy time for Sheriff’s Department officials.

&uot;It started a little after midnight (Friday morning),&uot; he said. &uot;It’s definitely a good Christmas present for Shelby County.&uot;

Bostick said last week it was too early to speak of any other charges that might be filed against Bowen.

&uot;What we do know is that he will come back and begin serving his life sentence,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s what matters right now.&uot;

Curry said Bowen appeared in federal court on Monday morning and will appear again on Thursday; however, there had been no change in status.

It has yet to be determined whether he will be charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

He said Bowen would be moved to the state prison &uot;as rapidly as possible after that.