A chance encounter between an off-duty police sergeant and the father of a local teenager who was killed 39 years ago led to a break in the long-unsolved case, the officer said yesterday.
Toledo police are seeking Robert Baxter Bowman, 70, on a charge of aggravated murder in the 1967 disappearance of 14-year-old Eileen Adams of Sylvania Township. A reverse paternity test and DNA found in the girl s underwear were used to link Mr. Bowman, who is believed to be in California, to the case, authorities said. He is accused of kidnapping, raping, and killing the girl.
Toledo police said yesterday that authorities in southern California stopped Mr. Bowman twice in 2003 to check him for warrants.
Toledo police are working with authorities and the media in hopes of finding him.
We don t know if he s alive, Toledo police Sgt. Steve Forrester said. We ve done all the checks and nothing shows he s deceased. [But] he could have died as a John Doe.
The case, largely forgotten for decades, was reopened in September after Sgt. Mike McGee met Miss Adams father at the officer s in-laws house. The couple invite elderly residents from nursing homes to their home for dinner and on holidays.
When Miss Adams father learned the sergeant was a police officer, he look[ed] at me and said, I wish you could solve a case that I ve got, the sergeant recalled. You think it s about tires slashed 20 years ago or something broken into 15 years ago, Sergeant McGee said. He goes on to tell me this story an unbelievable story.
The sergeant doubted parts of it but pursued it because of the way the father told the story: The elderly man believed everything he said.
His eyes there was something in his eyes. The way he looked. He knew too many details, dates, etc., Sergeant McGee said.
The sergeant promised to talk with the Lucas County cold-case task force and mentioned it to task force Detective Bart Beavers, who hadn t heard of the crime. Another Toledo police colleague, Sgt. Terry Stewart, did remember it, Sergeant McGee said.
Detectives pulled the case, reviewed the files, noted the brutality of the teenager s death and the potential for DNA, and pursued it.
Miss Adams, a 14-year-old Central Catholic High School freshman, was reported missing on Dec. 18, 1967.
The frozen, clothed body of the Sylvania Township teenager was found Jan. 30, 1968, wrapped in a mattress cover and rug in a field in Monroe County s Whiteford Township.
Her wrists and ankles were bound with drapery cord. A telephone cord was looped around her neck and tied to her ankles, bending her backward.
Strangulation believed to be the result of attempts to free herself was ruled the cause of death.
The case is believed to be the second-oldest unsolved homicide in Ohio in which DNA technology was used to identify a suspect, according to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.
The oldest case dates to 1966 in Mount Vernon, Ohio.
The suspect identified in that case, however, was deceased, said Bob Beasley, spokesman for the Ohio attorney general s office.
A recent reverse paternity test conducted with Mr. Bowman s ex-wife and his daughter found DNA compatible with semen found in Miss Adams underwear. Mr. Bowman has been charged with aggravated murder in an arrest warrant filed in Toledo Municipal Court.
Reverse paternity sounds like a great, big new technique, but it s not, said Elizabeth Benzinger, DNA quality assurance manager for the state bureau, which conducted the test at its Bowling Green lab. It s frequently used, but we ve not done a lot in situations like this. Maybe just a handful of times in the last 10 years.
Detective Beavers said Mr. Bowman kidnapped Miss Adams and held her captive in his basement in the 2200 block of West Sylvania Avenue possibly for up to two weeks.
Police didn t have any leads on suspects until Mr. Bowman s ex-wife came forward in 1981. They spoke with him at that time, but police didn t have enough to arrest him.
New publicity about the case led several women who recognized Mr. Bowman to contact investigators yesterday.
When Chris Lewis saw Mr. Bowman s picture, she said he was the man that made me paranoid for 40 years.
The Luna Pier, Mich., woman said she was waiting for a bus at Lewis and Sylvania avenues as a girl when a clean shaven man in a dark car asked for her name and offered to give her a ride. She took the bus to Grantwood Drive and Douglas Road. The man was right behind the bus.
It was fight or flight, the 53-year-old said. I flew. I ran three house lengths while that man drove next to me with his window down talking to me.
She ran home and told her father, who grabbed a weapon and called police. I was plain terrified, she said.
Ms. Lewis said she called investigators after seeing Mr. Bowman s picture in case she has information that might be helpful to them.
Police said details of her encounter match information they have about Mr. Bowman at that time.
Contact Christina Hall at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6007.