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Published: Tuesday, 8/16/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Lab analysts testify about DNA in murder trial

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Robert Bowman reacts to the testimony of his ex-wife, Margaret Bowman, unpictured, during his murder trial in the 1967 slaying of Eileen Adams, a 14-year-old Sylvania Township girl. Attorney Jane Roman sits nearby. Robert Bowman reacts to the testimony of his ex-wife, Margaret Bowman, unpictured, during his murder trial in the 1967 slaying of Eileen Adams, a 14-year-old Sylvania Township girl. Attorney Jane Roman sits nearby.
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More than 40 years after Eileen Adams’ body was discovered bound in a field, DNA tests pointed to Robert Bowman as a suspect, an analyst testified Tuesday.

Two former analysts from crime labs run by the Ohio Attorney General Office’s Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation testified in Lucas County Common Pleas Court Tuesday during the second week of Bowman’s trial. Bowman, 75, is charged with murder in the first degree for the 1967 slaying of the 14-year-old Sylvania Township teenager.

Bowman became a suspect in 2006 after a reverse paternity test was conducted on a semen stain found on the victim’s thermal underwear. In 2008, after his arrest, his DNA was compared to the stain again.

Jennifer Akbar, who worked for several years with the BCI&I lab in Bowling Green, testified Tuesday that the statistically possibility that the DNA found in the semen was someone other than Bowman was 1 in 4,153,000. She added that the population of the U.S. in 1970 was 203 million people.

According to earlier testimony, Miss Adams was last seen Dec. 18, 1967, on a city bus after school as she traveled to her sister’s West Toledo home. She was found Jan. 30, 1968, in a frozen Monroe County field with her hands tied in front of her, her ankles tied with a cord connected to her neck, and a nail driven through the back of her skull.

She was wearing the blue skirt and jacket that her sister testified she had borrowed the night before.

Law enforcement testified that the case went unsolved for more than a decade until 1981 when Bowman’s former wife, Margaret, came forward to police. Ms. Bowman testified Monday that she discovered a young girl tied up in her basement some time around Christmas, 1967, and that her then-husband threatened her and her newborn baby if she told anyone.

She further testified that he said he was forced to kill the young captive after learning that his wife discovered her.

But although law enforcement interviewed Bowman in early 1982 where he was living in a burned-out, abandoned restaurant, former detectives testified that there was not enough evidence to arrest him at the time.

It wasn’t until the evidence was reevaluated in 2006 and the semen was found that an arrest warrant was issued for Bowman.

When questioned by the defense, both Ms. Akbar and analyst Lindsey Hail acknowledged that the DNA sample taken from the semen was degraded – something that is common in old cases. Specifically, only 10 of the 16 locations used to test for DNA were found, they said.

The analysts further acknowledged that DNA testing, like most science, is not infallible.

Prior to hearing DNA testimony, jurors viewed photos of the exhumed body of Miss Adams, particularly the damage done to her skull. Deputy Lucas County Coroner Diane Scala-Barnett and forensic anthropologist Julie Saul each testified about the extensive damage to the thick bone of the skull.

Mrs. Saul testified that after removing the remaining tissue on the skull, it separated into two pieces – a result that she admitted surprised her.

“To fracture the skull like this not only takes a great deal of force but the head has to be against something hard,” Mrs. Saul said, noting how dense the skull is because of its job protecting the brain and eyes.

Both Dr. Barnett and Mrs. Saul acknowledged that their analyses could not determine what object was used to cause the impact damage or whether the damage was inflicted before or after the victim’s death. They also both acknowledged that nothing they examined could point to who caused the injuries.

According to her original death certificate, the cause of Miss Adams’ death was declared “probable strangulation” as a result of the cord wrapped around her neck and attached to her tied ankles. Dr. Barnett testified that she did not see signs of strangulation in the photos taken at the original autopsy but acknowledged that she could not discount the findings.

The pathologist that conducted the original autopsy is now deceased.

Additional testimony is expected Thursday. To date, 14 witnesses have testified over four days.

Contact Erica Blake at eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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