Monday, September 17, 2012

Cold Case - Missing Child California

Thomas Eldon Bowman – White – Age 8 (1957)
Missing since March 23, 1957 from Los Angeles County, California
Endangered Missing
Age in 2011: 62

Date of Birth: January 6, 1949
Nickname: Tommy

4'0"; 47-50 lbs.
Dark blond hair; brown eyes.

Tommy has a receding chin, protruding ears, gold bands on the back of his teeth and several silver fillings. He was missing two teeth at the time of his disappearance

Tommy was last seen wearing a blue plaid shirt, blue jeans and brown shoes. He also had on a Davy Crockett belt buckle.

Tommy was last seen on a trail in Arroyo Seco Canyon in Pasadena, California on March 23, 1957. On that day, the Bowman family drove up from Redondo Beach to Pasadena for a hike and dinner. Tommy had been walking with family members on the trail when he ran ahead to the family vehicle. When his family members arrived at the vehicle the child was not there. Law enforcement was notified and numerous searches were done. After Tommy vanished, the father refused to go home, searching the canyon and hillside. The family stayed for three weeks, searching round the clock, his father recalled. Tommy was never far from his mind. A witness came forward saying they had seen a man following Tommy before he disappeared at the head of the Arroyo Seco trail. A sketch of the unknown man was made by the Pasadena Police Department and shown around. For years afterward, Bowman, the father of two other children, said he would study the faces of boys Tommy's age, hoping to recognize his son. Tommy’s case went cold for 49 years.

In 2006, Pasadena author Weston DeWalt, the coauthor of a bestselling book about a climbing tragedy on Mt. Everest, came across Bowman's disappearance while researching hiking trails in the Arroyo Seco. He became fascinated by the case and eventually met with the Bowman's father and detectives, who gave him access to old police records. While researching the records and old newspaper articles, a photograph caught his attention. The black-and-white image, circa 1970, showed a man in handcuffs as he was led into court. He kept looking at that picture, knowing that face looked familiar but couldn’t figure out why. Then he realized that was the same face as the man in a Pasadena Police file. The face was a sketch of the man seen following Tommy before he vanished at the head of an Arroyo Seco trail. This sparked the interest of the police. The man being led into court in the newspaper article was convicted child serial killer, Mack Ray Edwards.
DeWalt interviewed Mack Ray Edwards' widow and other relatives in 2006. During the interview, a family member showed DeWalt a letter from Edwards to his wife, Mary, when he was on death row. The letter said, “I was going to add one more [victim] to the first statement" to the LAPD "and that was the Tommy Bowman boy that disappeared in Pasadena," he wrote. "But I felt I would really make a mess of that one so I left him out of it." Investigators now have the first solid evidence that directly connects Edwards to the disappearance of little Tommy Bowman.

In 2007, detectives are taking a new look at Mack Ray Edwards, and reopening at least four missing-child cases from nearly half a century ago that they believe are tied to him. So, who is Mack Ray Edwards?

On March 5, 1970, Edwards and a 15-year-old accomplice kidnapped three sisters, ages 12 to 14, from their Sylmar home. The girls were former neighbors of Edwards and recognized him. Two escaped that day, returning home to report that two men had kidnapped them, but the third child remained missing. Before the police were able to work up an investigation, however, on March 6, 1970, a man entered the Los Angeles Police Department's Foothill station and went to the front desk. He gave the police a loaded revolver and announced that his name was Mack Ray Edwards. He reportedly said, "I have a guilt complex," as recorded by writer Michael Newton. He admitted to the kidnapping, turning in his accomplice, and gave police directions to where the still-missing girl could be found in the Angeles National Forest. As officers went to get her (she was unharmed), Edwards admitted that he had other matters to discuss with them as well. The girl turned out to be remarkably lucky, as these "other matters" involved a series of child sex murders.

The 51-year-old heavy-equipment operator calmly told a detective that he had molested and killed three children from 1953 to 1956 and three more in 1968 and 1969 across Los Angeles County. Edwards was arrested. Of the six killings Edwards confessed to, the first took place 17 years earlier. On June 20, 1953, 8-year-old Stella Darlene Nolan was snatched from a refreshment stand in Norwalk where her mother worked. Within days after Edwards confessed, police found her remains near a freeway abutment in Downey. Three years later, on August 6, 1956, he killed his 12-year-old sister-in-law, Brenda Jo Howell, and her 15-year-old friend, Donald Lee Baker on the same day. Brenda and Donald’s bodies have never been recovered. Edwards told police he stopped killing until the late 1960s, when he moved to Sylmar with his wife, son and daughter. His next killing was on November 26, 1968, where he shot to death Gary Rochet, aged 16, who was found in his own home. Three weeks later on December 16, 1968, Edwards told police he stabbed 15 year old Roger Dale Madison repeatedly while they were in an orange grove and that he buried him under the 23 Freeway in Thousand Oaks which was under construction. Roger’s body has not been recovered. The last murder Edwards confessed to was 13-year-old Donald Allan Todd. He had gone missing on May 16, 1969 and his body was found shot-to-death later that same month. After three bodies were recovered and accounted for, Edwards plead guilty to three counts of murder and was sentenced to death for the murders of Stella Darlene Nolan, Gary Rochet and Donald Allan Todd.

Because the bodies of the other three victims were not (and still have not been as of August, 2011) recovered, he was never officially charged with the murders of Brenda Jo Howell, Donald Lee Baker and Roger Dale Madison. Before he was sent to San Quentin, he made an even more startling admission: He had actually killed 18 children. Detectives began to investigate the claim, but before they could get more information, Edwards hanged himself with a television cord in his cell on death row on October 30, 1971.

While investigators had initially had difficulty believing Edwards when he'd come in with his announcement, they were soon doubtful in the opposite way: they did not believe that he'd stopped himself as he claimed for over a decade, but he was adamant that he'd confessed to all the murders. Edwards may have committed other murders, but his own account was inconsistent: while in prison he claimed to have killed 18 children, but in an interview with the Los Angeles Times he said the number was only six. The 12-year span between Baker's and Howell's disappearances and Rochet's shooting has led investigators to suspect Edwards may have claimed more victims in between.

Thirty-five years later, detectives are taking a new look at Edwards, thanks to author Weston DeWalt, who was researching the disappearance of Tommy Bowman in the Arroyo Seco. They have reopened other missing-child cases from nearly half a century ago that they believe are tied to him. Detectives have had a difficult time establishing the movements of Edwards. Building on DeWalt's research, police traced Edwards to at least 10 residences around Los Angeles, the South Bay and the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys. They learned Mack Ray Edwards was born in Arkansas, and he moved to Los Angeles County in 1941 where he worked on freeways as a heavy equipment operator contracted by Caltrans. Detectives face another obstacle: files kept on missing children during that era were destroyed after the children's 18th birthdays, meaning detectives had to build information about most of the cases from scratch. Some files were re-opened; some files are new. The case has plunged detectives from the LAPD, Pasadena and Torrance police, state Department of Justice and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department into the yellowing case files of another era. They are trying to track the movements of a serial killer who died more than 30 years ago, reopening the old wounds of families who lost loved ones.

As of March 2007, besides the case of Tommy Bowman in 1957, the Los Angeles Police Department is also investigating the possibility of Edwards' involvement in the disappearances of Bruce Kremen, aged 6, who was last seen on July 13, 1960 at a YMCA camp in the Angeles National Forest; Karen Lynn Tompkins, aged 11, was last seen walking home from school on August 18, 1961 in Torrance; Ramona Irene Price, aged 7, who was last seen on September 2, 1961 in Santa Barbara, California while walking down the street to the family’s new home in Goleta. On June 15, 2011, the Santa Barbara, California Police Department announced plans to search the area near a Goleta freeway overpass that is under renovation, looking for the remains of Ramona. Four teams of cadaver dogs had alerted on the same "area of interest" at the site; and Dorothy Gale Brown, aged 11, was last seen on July 3, 1962 in Torrance. Her body was recovered from the ocean off of Corona del Mar.

*To see an age-progressed image, please click on the links below.

If you have any information about this case, please contact:
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office
Detective Vivian Flores or Investigator Diane Harris
Case 040003031
Pasadena Police Department
Investigator Kate Favara
Case number not mentioned

No comments:

Post a Comment