About 45 minutes before James Edward Bowser killed his wife and then himself early Monday morning, an Essex District police officer observed Bowser walking along Back River Neck Road, carrying the 12-gauge shotgun used in the slayings.
Bowser, who was separated from his wife, told the officer he had had an argument with his roommate and was heading to his parents' house in Cub Hill, where his wife, Michelle, was also living, according to E. Jay Miller, a Baltimore County police spokesman.
The Essex officer, whom Mr. Miller declined to identify, called for a cab to drive Bowser to the Cub Hill address. "He was pleasant, he was cooperative," Mr. Miller said of Bowser, 24. "He hasn't broken any laws. He's congenial. He's not intoxicated. He's not out of sorts."
The cabdriver who drove Bowser to the 2800 block of Cub Hill Road said his passenger was friendly and talkative during the 25-minute drive. "We talked quite a bit," said Jake Langford of the New Eastern Cab Co. "This guy seemed like a nice guy."
Mr. Langford said he picked up Bowser at 4:14 a.m. and dropped him off in Cub Hill at 4:38 a.m.
At the Cub Hill home, a Parkville police officer was there waiting to make sure that the cabdriver had safely transported Bowser to where he said he was going, said Mr. Miller.
"The officers were concerned about the safety of the public and the cabdriver," said Mr. Miller.
After Bowser retrieved the 12-gauge shotgun from the trunk of the cab, he walked into the darkened house, and both cabdriver and police officer left, said Mr. Langford.
It was less than 10 minutes later -- at 4:47 a.m. -- that police were called to a violent domestic dispute at Bowser's parents' home, said Mr. Miller.
Upon arriving, a Parkville precinct officer heard two gunshots, followed shortly afterward by a single gunshot. Inside, police found Mrs. Bowser, 24, dead in one bedroom, and her husband dead in another.
"It shocked the heck out of me," said Mr. Langford, the cabdriver. "That kind of thing hits you real hard. . . . It's a shame the officers couldn't take the gun away from him, but they said it's in the Constitution they can't take it unless it was concealed."
Mr. Miller, the police spokesman, said yesterday that the officers' actions early Monday morning appeared to be appropriate. He said a "routine review" is under way, but it is not an "internal investigation."
"They followed pretty good procedure and perhaps did more than they had to," said Mr. Miller. "It's sad. It's a tragic, tragic outcome, but obviously not anything [the officers] could foresee."
The Bowsers are survived by two daughters, ages 7 and 6 months.