TOLEDO, Ohio — A man accused of snatching a teenager on her way home from school in 1967 and holding her captive for days in his basement before killing her was convicted Friday of murder.
Jurors found Robert Bowman, now 75, guilty in the death of 14-year-old Eileen Adams that stumped investigators for more than four decades, even after his ex-wife had told police she had found the girl alive and tied up in the basement.
Bowman sexually assaulted the girl before dumping her body in southern Michigan, prosecutors said. She had been tied up and a nail was driven into the back of her head.
Adams, a high school freshman, was either strangled or died from a blow to the head that cracked her skull.
Bowman had been a successful businessman before disappearing in the 1980s into a life on the streets in Florida and California. He faces up to life in prison in the killing.
Another jury in August had failed to reach a verdict in the case, which forced the retrial.
Detectives first tried to link him to the slaying in the early ’80s, but they didn’t have enough evidence to bring charges until a cold case squad reopened the investigation five years ago. New DNA evidence, they said, connected Bowman with the killing, and police arrested him near Palm Springs, Calif., in 2008.
His former wife was a key witness in the trial, testifying that she found Adams naked in their fruit cellar after the girl disappeared just before Christmas in 1967.
Margaret Bowman said she was hanging laundry when she thought she heard rats in the cellar. She said she opened a wooden door and saw a girl with her arms outstretched and bound, "hanging like Jesus."
She said she ran upstairs and that her husband confronted her, saying he now had to kill the girl. He also threatened to kill his wife and their newborn daughter if she told anyone, she said.
That same night, she testified, Bowman made her go with him as he dumped the body just north of Toledo, across the state line in Michigan.
Robert Bowman, who took the witness stand after not testifying at his first trial, accused his ex-wife of lying and said investigators manufactured evidence against him.
He denied any involvement in the killing.
"That isn’t something I would do," he said.
Defense attorney Peter Rost tried to cast doubt on Margaret Bowman’s account. He said that she waited 14 years to tell her story to police and that she stayed with Bowman for more than a decade, moving with him to three different states before leaving when his business failed.
Even after she went to detectives in 1981, they still didn’t charge Bowman. Rost also said that the DNA evidence did not conclusively point to Bowman.
Bowman had owned a construction company in Ohio and later a business that made high-end purses in Florida and sold its handbags in Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue stores.
But when police detectives tracked him down in Florida in 1982, he was living in an abandoned restaurant, wearing a tattered shirt and jeans and a scruffy beard.
Hanging from the restaurant ceiling were three dolls, some with their feet bound with string. A nail had been driven into the head of two dolls — eerily similar to how a hunter had found the body of Adams.
Bowman talked with police, but he then dropped out of sight.
Cold case investigators in 2006 discovered that DNA evidence from semen on the victim’s thermal underwear linked Bowman to the crime, they said. Police soon after charged Bowman even though they had no idea where he was living or even if he was still alive.
He was profiled on the "America’s Most Wanted" and police in southern California arrested him when he was spotted riding a bicycle. His attorney said he had been living under a tarp in the desert.