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In the weeks after the discovery of Eileen Adams’ bound body in rural Monroe County, hundreds of tips were followed — and dozens of interviews were conducted — but no leads led to a viable suspect, a retired Toledo police detective said Monday.
Retired Toledo Detective Merritt Higbie was one of four witnesses to take the stand in Lucas County Common Pleas Court Monday on the first day of testimony in Robert Bowman’s retrial.
Bowman, 75, is charged with murder in the first degree in the 1967 slaying of Miss Adams. The body of the 14-year-old Sylvania Township teenager was found in Whiteford Township on Jan. 30, 1968 — 43 days after she was reported missing.
Detective Higbie testified that although authorities had the rug Miss Adams’ body was found wrapped in and the cords that bound her body, there was nothing to tie that physical evidence to any place or person.
Eventually, the case went cold.
During opening statements, John Weglian, chief of the special units division for the county prosecutor’s office, gave a time line for the case, starting with Miss Adams’ disappearance through to Bowman’s arrest more than 40 years later. Mr. Weglian noted there was no viable suspect until 1981, when Bowman’s former wife, Margaret, came to Toledo police.
Mr. Weglian said that although Bowman then became a suspect, it would be years later that DNA provided the physical link between Bowman and Miss Adams’ death, he said.
Mr. Weglian added that the evidence would show the statistical possibility that the DNA, taken from semen found in the victim’s underwear, was someone other than Bowman was 1 in 4 million.
“If Margaret Bowman made this story up out of spite or a drunken stupor, she had to be the luckiest liar,” Mr. Weglian said. “…But if she was there and the defendant was there and Eileen Adams was there in December, 1967, then her chances of being right were one in one.”
Defense attorney Pete Rost told jurors during opening statements that although 4 million seemed to be a large number, they would hear “much higher numbers when it came to DNA testing.” He also told jurors that the evidence would show that subsequent testing in the case resulted in much lower DNA statistics.
Mr. Rost separated Miss Adams’ case into three time frames, the time of her disappearance and death, the time Mrs. Bowman came forward, and the reopening of the case in 2006 by cold-case detectives.
He noted that from the beginning, facts of the case were disseminated by the media “in great detail,” adding that a newsman was even at the original autopsy.
“At one time they had 54 suspects,” he said, noting Bowman was not one of them.
Fourteen years later, after Mrs. Bowman came forward, Bowman still wasn’t charged.
“Nothing they had at that point would connect Robert Bowman to [the case], either physical evidence or statements,” he said.
Taking the stand first in the case was Miss Adams’ older sister, Mary Ann Brimmer, who testified that she waited for her sister to come over after school on the day of her disappearance.
She noted that it was her sister’s routine to board the city bus after school and get off just a block and a half from her home, then on Brussels Street.
Also testifying were Miss Adams’ childhood friend Sandra Jakubec, who said she rode the bus home from Central Catholic High School with Miss Adams, and former Monroe County Sheriff Walter Trowbridge, who testified that Miss Adams’ body was found in an overgrown area in Whiteford Township with her hands tied in front of her, her ankles tied to a cord wrapped around her neck, and a nail in the back of her skull.
The four witnesses also testified at Bowman’s first trial, which ended Aug. 23 in a mistrial after a jury of nine women and three men deadlocked and could not reach a consensus.
Before the start of testimony, Judge Gene Zmuda noted for jurors that Bowman’s first trial ended in a mistrial.
He then ordered jurors not to consider “for any purpose” that the case had been tried before.
The jury of nine women, three men, and four alternates will continue hearing testimony Tuesday. Among those scheduled to testify is Mrs. Bowman.
Contact Erica Blake at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.