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She said she was hanging wet laundry to dry in the basement of her West Sylvania Avenue home when she heard a muffled noise from behind the closed door to the fruit cellar.
Margaret "Margie" Bowman opened the door to find a naked girl, silenced with tape across her mouth and bound by her outstretched limbs to mattresses that lined the walls.
She struggled to free the girl, but said she was interrupted by her husband, Robert.
"He just started going crazy, yelling and screaming, saying he had to kill her now," Ms. Bowman, 64, told Judge Gene Zmuda during a pretrial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
That was 40 years ago. Ms. Bowman's testimony yesterday marked her first public discussion of the cold-case murder of Eileen Adams - a 14-year-old girl who was missing for more than a month before her body was found in a frozen Monroe County field in January, 1968.
Her ex-husband, Bowman, 73, is accused of raping and killing the girl. Bowman sat with wrists shackled as his ex-wife recounted the day in December, 1967, that she said she discovered the girl in the basement.
Judge Zmuda told Ms. Bowman before she testified Friday that her marriage to the suspect meant that she could not be compelled to participate in the trial.
"Do you understand that you do not have to testify about these events?" Judge Zmuda asked.
"Yes," she replied.
Ms. Bowman was just 21 and a couple of months from celebrating her first wedding anniversary. She and Bowman, then a 30-year-old business owner, shared a two-bedroom house, a dog, and an infant daughter.
Her husband was out and the baby was sleeping in her crib as Ms. Bowman handwashed the family laundry in the kitchen sink, then headed down the steps to hang the wash to dry.
She almost ignored the sound she heard on the other side of the cellar door. She thought it was rats. She was frightened of rats.
Instead, Ms. Bowman opened the door and found the girl whose name she would learn only days later from news reports and the set of textbooks she found in the house marked "Eileen Adams." The girl was naked and suspended with ropes, arms spread "like Jesus Christ on a cross," Ms. Bowman testified.
She was still alive.
"I screamed, and I tried to help her down," Ms. Bowman said. She couldn't.
Bowman came down the stairs "ranting and raving," and threw her across the room, she said.
"Did you fight back or resist?" Assistant Lucas County Prosecutor Tim Braun asked.
"No, I was scared to death of him," Ms. Bowman said.
That's when he announced he would have to kill the girl, Ms. Bowman said. He threatened to kill his wife and daughter if Ms. Bowman told anyone what she'd seen. She went upstairs and held her infant daughter on the living room couch until her husband returned upstairs.
Ms. Bowman said she didn't see him kill the Adams girl, and she didn't see him put her in the trunk of their car. "He told me he strangled her and put a nail in the back of her head," Ms. Bowman said.
She testified that she was forced to ride with him to Michigan where he planned to hide the body. She said she "closed her eyes" as he disposed of the girl.
She kept the secret for a short time. She first told her mother, now deceased, and later her siblings. No one believed her, she said. "They thought I was an old drunk."
She added later that she left her husband about three years after the crime, She saved money "until I could get away." She moved across the country several times with her daughter to elude Bowman, she said. After moves from Las Vegas, Phoenix, Miami, and Hollywood, Fla., she now lives in St. Petersburg, Fla.
She didn't file for divorce until the 1980s, after she was interviewed by now-retired Toledo Police Detective Daniel Brimmer.
Ms. Bowman has been a key witness for generations of police detectives who investigated the murder of the Adams girl. It was 13 years after the murder that she first spoke with Detective Brimmer.
Prosecutors in the 1980s weren't convinced that Ms. Bowman's testimony would be enough to convict her ex-husband, Mr. Brimmer testified yesterday.
The advent of DNA evidence in the 1990s created new opportunities for investigators, said Detective Bart Beavers, who helped when the case was reopened in 2006.
A warrant was issued for Bowman's arrest in November, 2007, after a reverse paternity test using samples from his ex-wife and daughter were used to match Bowman to DNA found on the victim's body.
Ms. Bowman was asked by defense attorney Jane Roman why she didn't go to authorities until the 1980s.
"I was frightened and scared and in shock. I was very naive then," Ms. Bowman said. "I was afraid. Am I on trial here?"
Another hearing in the case is scheduled for 1 p.m. June 23.
Contact Bridget Tharp at: