Bowman sentenced to death in 1977 killing of Missouri teen -

Bowman sentenced to death in 1977 killing of Missouri teen

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) -- A man who had already spent 28 years behind bars in Illinois for two slayings was sentenced Friday to death for killing a Missouri teenager more than three decades ago.

Gregory Bowman, 58, of Belmont, Ill., was convicted of capital murder in October of killing of 16-year-old Velda Rumfelt.

Bowman passed on the opportunity to make a statement during the Friday court hearing and stood quietly as Circuit Judge David Lee Vincent III agreed with the jury's recommendation of the death sentence. But as Vincent admonished him for his crime, Bowman interrupted.

"These were cowardly acts on your part," Vincent said. "I don't know what made you do these acts. ..."

"I never," Bowman interrupted. "I never, I'm not guilty."

Bowman's attorney, Steve Evans, said he will appeal. Evans said it was unconstitutional for Missouri officials to obtain DNA evidence from Illinois because new trials had been ordered for the Illinois murder convictions.

Casey Rumfelt, 27, never knew his aunt, but spoke at the hearing on behalf of the Rumfelt family. He recalled how his father would often break down as he thought about his sister, who was killed in 1977.

"Gregory Bowman didn't just take some little girl off the street," he said. "He took my dad's best friend, his rock."

Bowman was previously imprisoned in Illinois for killing 14-year-old Elizabeth West and 21-year-old Ruth Ann Jany in separate cases in Belleville, Ill., in 1978. The convictions were thrown out after a sheriff's deputy admitted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Bowman had been tricked into confessing.

Bowman was briefly released on bond in 2007, before charges were filed in the Rumfelt case. He has been jailed since then.

A spokeswoman for St. Clair County, Ill., State's Attorney Robert Haida said no new trial date has been set in the Belleville killings.

DNA evidence connected Bowman to the rape and murder of Rumfelt. She had lived in the St. Louis County town of Brentwood before moving to Kansas City to live with her mother. She hitched a ride back to the St. Louis area with a 20-year-old acquaintance, Bobby Keiner. The two spent the day of June 5, 1977, at the Six Flags St. Louis amusement park.

The two later split up and planned to meet again that night. An acquaintance saw Rumfelt walking along a street with an older man.

Her body was found in a field the next day. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled with a shoestring, court documents said.

West and Jany disappeared separately in Belleville in 1978. In both cases, their bodies were found in remote areas. Bowman became a suspect following his arrest for trying to kidnap another woman. He was sentenced to life in prison for both killings.

During the penalty phase of Bowman's trial in October, he claimed he was innocent of all three killings.

"I never killed anyone," he said.

At that same hearing, Bowman said he had confessed to the Belleville killings because he believed doing so would keep him in the St. Clair County jail long enough to escape.

In retrospect, he said, "I think it was rather stupid."

Two women from the Illinois towns of Danville and Flora testified at the penalty phase of the trial that Bowman had grabbed them off the street. He allegedly raped one and tried to rape the other. Bowman said both women had false memories.

At Friday's hearing, Vincent read a letter from Ralph Goerke, one of Rumfelt's teachers at Brentwood High School. He recalled her as an "outgoing, talented, bright and trusting young lady," and lamented that the world never got to know her as an adult.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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