Jury orders death sentence in 1977 murder - KMOV.com

Jury orders death sentence in 1977 murder

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) -- A St. Louis County jury ruled Friday that an Illinois man whose convictions in two other killings were thrown out should be executed for the murder of a 16-year-old girl in Missouri 32 years ago.

The same jury had convicted 58-year-old Gregory Bowman of Bellmont, Ill., of capital murder on Thursday. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 11.

DNA evidence tied Bowman to the rape and murder of high school student Velda Rumfelt, whose body was found in a remote area of St. Louis County the day after she disappeared in June 1977. The girl had moved from the area to Kansas City and was killed while visiting friends and family in her hometown of Brentwood.

Bowman previously spent 28 years in prison for the 1978 killings of 14-year-old Elizabeth West and Ruth Ann Jany, 21, in Belleville, Ill.

Those convictions were thrown out after a sheriff's deputy admitted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Bowman had been tricked into confessing. The charges have been refiled.

Bowman did not testify during the guilt phase of his Missouri trial but took the stand Friday in the penalty phase.

"I never killed anyone," Bowman testified as prosecutor Joe Dueker questioned him about the three murders and four abductions to which he has been tied.

The Belleville News-Democrat reported that a woman who says Bowman abducted and nearly raped her when she was 15 years old sat across the courtroom, her face wet with tears, as he testified.

As for the Illinois murder confessions, Bowman said he had believed that confessing would keep him in the St. Clair County Jail long enough for him to escape.

Dueker asked Bowman whether he really thought confessing to two murders was the best way to stay out of state prison.

"I think it was rather stupid," Bowman responded. He said he was young and dumb and scared.

"I didn't exactly confess. I made statements," he said.

As the penalty phase opened Thursday, two women, from the Illinois towns of Danville and Flora, testified that Bowman had grabbed them off the street and tried to rape one and did rape the other.

Bowman said both women were the victims of false memories.

The jury concluded that the allegations of murders and abductions in Illinois were sufficient aggravating factors to warrant the death penalty.

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

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