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Published: Monday, 10/27/2003

Longtime prosecutor sets sights on retiring

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Bowers: He will serve final year. Bowers: He will serve final year.
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LIMA, Ohio - David Bowers strategically hung a poster of colorful hot-air balloons on the wall facing his desk so that even when he is forced to deal with the absolute worst of society, he is reminded of something uplifting.

Because when the Allen County prosecutor looks back on the more than 150 cases he has tried over the years, it is those that are the most heinous or senseless that tend to stick out in his mind.

They involve brutality and senseless crimes. They involve youngsters and innocent victims. They are the types of cases that make even the most jaded law enforcement officials shudder.

Mr. Bowers, 60, is entering his 28th and final year as Allen County prosecutor; he has announced he will retire. And although he has a year left to serve and more cases yet to prosecute, Mr. Bowers can pinpoint several of the most satisfying convictions in his career.

There is the case Mr. Bowers refers to as the Leland Avenue firebombing, where five people - four of them teenagers - died in an attack meant for someone else. Ten men were arrested and convicted of various crimes, depending on their involvement in the deadly fire.

In an apartment on East Eureka Street, Mr. Bowers remembers another ghastly scene where two men opened fire on a room full of people. Leneshia Williams, 17, and Jala Grant, 3, were both killed.

The two men charged in the killing were convicted and are now on death row.

“Thank goodness society simply doesn't like people killing kids,” said Mr. Bowers, as he sat in his bright, windowless office.

Mr. Bowers, who knew in high school that he wanted to be a lawyer, announced at a recent county Republican luncheon that his name will not appear on the 2004 ballot.

He said it wasn't a particularly difficult decision and it was time to move on. He will return to the Bowers Kendall Law office, where he began his career after graduating from Ohio Northern University's law school in 1969.

A lot has changed since then. Mr. Bowers admits he has a few more pounds, a few less hairs, and is likely much more cynical, but his enthusiasm remains strong.

He said that it was early in his life that he realized his first career choice - to pitch for the New York Yankees - was not going to happen. That's when he discovered law.

Mr. Bowers' uncle, Anthony Bowers, was the Allen County prosecutor when the younger Bowers was in high school. It was through him that he was exposed to the captivating world of trials.

Now he has the distinction of being the longest-serving prosecutor in the state still in office.

“I'd come up on days off from school and watch his trials,” he said. “They were more colorful back then. Then a lot of people would come and watch.”

Chief criminal assistant prosecutor Dan Berry reiterated the story of Mr. Bowers' youth when referring to his longtime boss's commitment.

“It's hard to replace that kind of experience, there's no doubt about that. Prosecuting is a job that really requires that kind of experience,” he said. “The county is going to miss Dave. He's run a good office.”

Sheriff Daniel Beck, who has often not seen eye to eye with his Republican colleague, said that despite their differences, Allen County officials always ended up working together “to serve the community.”

“Allen County is losing three decades of experience,” Sheriff Beck said. “I think the one thing that makes government work is to have different opinions, different thoughts, and to still make it work.”



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