Accountant guilty in chloroform death of girlfriend, 20

November 09, 1995|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,SUN STAFF

A 52-year-old accountant, described by prosecutors as "reckless and grossly negligent," was convicted yesterday in the 1993 chloroform-inhalation death of his 20-year-old girlfriend.

Melvin Robert Bowers was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for giving Geneva Marie Hodge a deadly dose of chloroform to treat a toothache on Sept. 6, 1993 -- despite defense claims that her death was an accident.

Bowers, who lived in Ellicott City at the time of the incident but has since moved to Baltimore, could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. He will remain free on $50,000 bond until his Jan. 2 sentencing hearing.

A Howard Circuit Court jury of eight women and four men deliberated about 2 1/2 hours before reaching its verdict, ending the second trial arising from the death. At Bowers' first trial in August 1994, a jury could not reach a verdict on manslaughter but convicted Bowers of the lesser count of reckless endangerment.

"Different juries will do different things," said State's Attorney Marna McLendon. The Bowers case was the first trial Ms. McLendon has handled since becoming state's attorney in January.

Deputy Public Defender Louis Willemin said Bowers' first jury had the option of convicting Bowers of manslaughter and reckless endangerment, or choosing between the charges. That wasn't so for the second trial's jurors.

"They were faced with the choice that this was OK or this was manslaughter," Mr. Willemin said.

"They had a drastic choice."

Mr. Willemin asked that the jury in the second trial also be allowed to consider the reckless endangerment charge, but his request was denied.

Ms. Hodge, of Baltimore, died from a deadly mix of alcohol and chloroform after a night of drinking and sexual relations with Bowers at his former home in the 2800 block of Southview Road.

Ms. McLendon asserted in her closing statement that Bowers knew the risks of allowing Ms. Hodge to drink and later giving her a lethal dose of chloroform, an anesthetic no longer used because it is considered to be poisonous.

"Even you and I would know it's risky business," Ms. McLendon told the jurors. "Certainly, Mr. Bowers knew this was a combination that was risky."

The prosecutor contended that Bowers' actions after discovering Ms. Hodge's body the next morning showed that he knew he was responsible for her death.

Ms. McLendon said that the evidence showed Bowers waited nine hours before reporting Ms. Hodge's death -- after doing laundry, going to a supermarket three times and consulting two ministers and a lawyer.

Mr. Willemin contended in his closing statement that Bowers is not responsible for Ms. Hodge's death. He said that Bowers offered Ms. Hodge aspirin for her toothache, but that Ms. Hodge told him she wanted chloroform.

"Geneva Hodge was in control of her own destiny," Mr. Willemin said. "When she asked for the chloroform, [Bowers] gave it to her. It's a tragic accident, but it doesn't mean [Bowers] killed her."

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