Suspect's statement challenged

February 17, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

Defense lawyers for an Ellicott City accountant charged in the chloroform inhalation death of his girlfriend are trying to prevent prosecutors from using statements the man made after his arrest.

In a taped interview played during a Howard Circuit Court hearing yesterday, Melvin Robert Bowers, 57, described for police the night that Geneva Marie Hodge of Baltimore died.

In the interview, Mr. Bowers told police that they had "rough sex" that night, that he gave Ms. Hodge, 20, chloroform for a toothache in the middle of the night and that he thought about burying her body when he found her dead the next morning.

Mr. Bowers is charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment and inhaling harmful substances in the Sept. 6 death of Ms. Hodge. He could be sentenced to 15 1/2 years in prison if convicted.

Deputy Public Defender Louis Willemin is asking Judge James Dudley to prevent prosecutors from using statements Mr. Bowers gave to police after his arrest at his trial, which is scheduled to begin March 9.

The hearing on the request is expected to continue this afternoon. The defense is expected to argue that Mr. Bowers' statements were not voluntary.

An autopsy revealed that Ms. Hodge died from inhaling chloroform, a toxic liquid sometimes used in small doses by dentists. The autopsy also showed that Ms. Hodge had been drinking on the night she died.

Mr. Bowers frequently broke into tears in court yesterday while county prosecutors played a recording of his 90-minute interview, in which he detailed the night of Ms. Hodge's death and their relationship for two police officers.

Mr. Bowers, saying he loved Ms. Hodge, explained to police that he met her at a Baltimore bar in early 1992. He noted that he was helping her to prepare for General Education Equivalency Diploma.

He said Ms. Hodge enjoyed having rough sex, including being handcuffed and spanked, so he agreed to perform such acts with her the night that she died. He said he preferred to dance with her to a song like "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers and then carry her off to bed.

"I like romantic sex," he said in the recorded statement.

The defendant reported that the night of Ms. Hodge's death was the first time they had been together in about five months. He said Ms. Hodge had just broken off a relationship with a live-in boyfriend.

After getting food from a restaurant, Mr. Bowers said, he and Hodge went to his house in the 2800 block of Southview Road about 11 p.m.

They talked for some time and then went to the bedroom, where they had sex, Mr. Bowers said. He added that they had a number of alcoholic drinks.

Ms. Hodge woke up in the middle of the night complaining of a toothache, Mr. Bowers said, so he gave her a rag doused with chloroform to help ease the pain.

Mr. Bowers said the last thing he remembers before falling asleep is that Ms. Hodge had the rag over her mouth. The rag was still partially covering her face when he woke up the next morning about 7 a.m., he said.

"She was cold," he said. I tried to feel her pulse. . . . I tried to feel her heartbeat, but I couldn't find one. I can't tell you how scared I was."

Mr. Bowers said he attempted to revive Ms. Hodge by performing CPR for at least two hours. He did not call 911 until about 3 p.m., records say.

Mr. Bowers, a divorced father of four children, said he considered burying Ms. Hodge to avoid getting into any trouble but instead decided to call 911. Police found a partially dug hole in the back yard of Mr. Bowers' home.

Meanwhile, he said, he went to an Ellicott City supermarket three times to get "drinks."

He added that he called two people from churches for help. One of the people advised him to call a lawyer.

Mr. Bowers called the lawyer, who told him not to make any statements to police.

After police arrived at the home, Mr. Bowers said he wanted to cooperate but a lawyer advised him against making a statement, Officer William Vogel testified.

Mr. Bowers was taken to the county police department and kept in a small room until about 11 p.m., when he asked to speak to a lawyer again.

He then agreed to talk with investigators about the incident.

Officers involved in the case testified that Mr. Bowers twice was informed of his rights before they talked to him.

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