March 18, 2010

'WE WERE FLOORED'

TREVOR MAXWELL

— The Times of Northwest Indiana and Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram

click image to enlarge

121807jtl1219COLD_CASE5 Times Photo John Luke CROWN POINT Kennth Conrick, 8 was killed in 1979 in Gary's Glen Park neighborhood near Harrison and 48th in a wooded area. David Bruce Bowen, originally of Gary was arrested in Kingfield, Maine early Tuesday morning in connection with the 27-year-old murder.

Times of Northwest Indiana

DNA-DEATH
click image to enlarge

DNA-DEATH

AP

By

Staff Writer

David Bowen, the Portland man who was arrested Tuesday in the murder of an Indiana boy in 1979, had a string of run-ins with police in Maine in the 1980s and early 1990s, ranging from misdemeanor assault to a felony conviction for robbery.

But his criminal record stopped abruptly in 1992, and he apparently settled into the quiet routine of a working man, traveling with painting crews and moving between apartments in Portland. In the Park Avenue neighborhood where he lived for the past several years, Bowen, 44, was known simply as ''Dave the painter.''

''He came in here every day for the past four and a half years,'' said Mal Mango, owner of Terroni's, the neighborhood sandwich shop. Bowen was one of the few non-family members who were allowed to run tabs if they didn't have cash.

''He would ask if he could pay me back in the morning, and then he would be there the next day, waiting at the door for me to open up,'' Mango said. ''He was always polite, well spoken. He was on a first-name basis with myself and my family. He was going to do some work on my house.

''We were floored,'' by the news that Bowen is suspected of murder, Mango said.

Police arrested Bowen in Kingfield Tuesday, where his Scarborough-based painting crew was working at a bottling plant.

On Wednesday, during his initial appearance in Farmington District Court, Bowen agreed to be extradited to Indiana. Police there say he abducted, raped and murdered an 8-year-old boy in Gary 28 years ago. He is being held in the Franklin County Jail until the paperwork is completed for his extradition.

Kevin Joyce of Farmington, Bowen's court-appointed lawyer, spoke briefly to Bowen before the hearing.

Joyce said his client knew for some time that investigators were closing in, because detectives had spoken to him over the past months and taken his DNA sample.

''He told me he was interested in going back to Indiana to contest the charge,'' Joyce said. ''He knew it was inevitable.''

RUN-INS WITH THE LAW

Kenneth ''Butch'' Conrick disappeared while walking home from school in October 1979. His nude and mutilated body was found tied to a tree two weeks later, behind a Salvation Army office.

Bowen, who was 16 at the time, was the prime suspect because a 9-year-old boy in the same neighborhood had accused him of sexual assault. But there was not enough evidence to charge him.

Information provided last year by his sister, Donna Oprish, allowed police to get a search warrant and a DNA sample from Bowen. Officials said Wednesday that the DNA matched fluids collected from Conrick's body, according to the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana.

It was unclear exactly when Bowen moved to Maine, or what connections might have brought him here.

In 1984, the 20-year-old Bowen and another young man were convicted of robbing $1,200 in cash from the owner of a pizza parlor in Biddeford. Bowen served four months in the York County Jail, according to state records.

Bowen was convicted of misdemeanor theft in Westbrook in 1989. He was convicted twice of assault in Portland, in 1991 and 1992, and was put on probation for both of the incidents. The files for those cases have been archived in Augusta, and were not available on Wednesday afternoon.

A ROUTINE LIFE

Bowen also has a long history of driving convictions, including three for drunken driving in the 1980s. His license was suspended indefinitely in 1990 because he failed to pay a fine, and those who know him said he has not driven in years.

''Someone from the crew would pick him up,'' said Jim Harmon, Bowen's longtime landlord. Bowen lived in an apartment owned by Harmon on Alder Street, and moved several years ago to the basement apartment at 218 Park Ave., across the street from the Portland Expo. The building has 14 units.

''He stayed on his own. He kept to himself and had a few friends,'' Harmon said of Bowen. ''Sometimes he was a little late, but he took care of his bills.''

Bert Michelson of Portland said he worked on painting crews with Bowen and was friends with him and his family. Bowen was married and had one daughter, but got divorced about 15 years ago, Michelson said.

''They spent nights at our house,'' he said. ''He said he couldn't go back to Indiana because of some trouble he and his brother were in. I knew nothing else about it. I have no idea why he came to Maine.''

Michelson recalled Bowen as a reliable worker who struggled with an addiction to alcohol. He said he stopped hanging out with Bowen when the drinking problem got worse.

Mango, the owner of Terroni's, said Bowen had one best friend over the past 20 years. That person could not be reached on Wednesday.

Bowen was known by the regulars who drank at the nearby Andrews American Legion Post on Deering Street, Mango said.

He said Bowen usually came into Terroni's to pick up Budweiser, Marlboro Lights and chicken salad sandwiches.

''He was always wearing his painting gear and a ballcap,'' Mango said. ''With Dave, it was nothing but a smile.''

Betty Jesperson of Blethen Maine News Service contributed to this report.

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

tmaxwell@pressherald.com

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)