Manslaughter trial opens in death of woman, 20

August 23, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

An Ellicott City accountant is responsible for the death of his 20-year-old girlfriend by giving her a lethal dosage of chloroform to treat a toothache last September, a prosecutor told a Howard Circuit Court jury yesterday.

But the defense lawyer for the 51-year-old man told the six men and six women of the jury that the woman's death was accidental, caused by a deadly mix of chloroform and alcohol.

Those opposing views were outlined during opening statements in the trial of Melvin Robert Bowers, who is charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment and inhaling harmful substances in the Sept. 6 death of Geneva Marie Hodge of Baltimore.

To convict Mr. Bowers of the manslaughter charge, the jury must find that his actions were so negligent that he caused the death of Ms. Hodge, whom he met two years ago while she worked as a dancer at a show bar on The Block in Baltimore.

Mr. Bowers, a divorced father of two children who lives in the 2800 block of Southview Road, could be sentenced to 15 1/2 years in prison if he is convicted. His trial resumes today before Judge Cornelius Sybert Jr.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha told the jury to listen to statements Mr. Bowers gave to police investigators in a taped interrogation after his arrest.

During the interview, Mr. Bowers told police 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.

Mr. Bowers said in the interview that Ms. Hodge woke up during the night and complained of a toothache, so he gave her a rag doused with chloroform to help ease the pain.

"He's not a doctor," Mr. Murtha said. "He's not an anesthesiologist. The last thing he remembers is catching a whiff of the chloroform and he himself falling asleep."

The prosecutor noted Mr. Bowers told police that he got the chloroform to help himself sleep because of back problems. Chloroform, once a common anesthetic, is now rarely used by doctors.

Mr. Murtha said Mr. Bowers, upon discovering Ms. Hodge's body the next morning, waited about eight hours before calling for emergency help. The prosecutor added that Mr. Bowers admitted to police that he thought about burying Ms. Hodge's body and fleeing.

But Deputy Public Defender Louis Willemin told the jurors that Mr. Bowers thought about burying the body and fleeing because he "freaked out" when he found her body.

He was "basically trying to pretend the whole thing didn't happen," Mr. Willemin said.

Mr. Willemin noted that Mr. Bowers said in police statements that he tried to revive Ms. Hodge by performing CPR for about two hours. He added that his client called a minister and a lawyer for advice.

Mr. Willemin added that a pathologist will testify on behalf of Mr. Bowers that Ms. Hodge's death was an accident caused by mixing alcohol and chloroform.

The defense attorney also urged the jury not to give much weight to testimony about his client's sexual relationship with Ms. Hodge, saying it has nothing to do with her death.

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