The pregnant woman's body was found on a rooftop in 1989 after a horrific attack: Her head was missing.
More than two decades later, Veronica Bowen's boyfriend was charged Monday with murdering her out of jealousy, five years before he would kill another of his girlfriends in the city's suburbs.
Already imprisoned for the second slaying, Philip Ward pleaded not guilty to murder in Bowen's death, though prosecutors say he recently confessed to a crime in which he'd long been under suspicion. His lawyer, Franklin Rothman, said the 45-year-old Ward was helping authorities, spurred by a desire to build a better relationship with his and Bowen's two children.
"I killed Veronica Bowen," he told investigators last month at the upstate New York prison where he's serving 20 years to life for killing his subsequent girlfriend, according to prosecutors' court papers.
Bowen was 21 when she disappeared in February 1989. She and Ward had met as teenagers at a group foster home and developed a relationship marred by domestic violence, the Manhattan district attorney's office said. She had recently moved out of the upper Manhattan apartment they shared, prosecutors said.
After finding out she was carrying another man's child, Ward lured her to the apartment building's roof overlooking the Hudson River, beat her with a pipe, stabbed her with a dagger and ultimately cut off her head with a kitchen knife, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Lederer told a judge.
Carefully covering his tracks, he stripped off her clothes and changed into fresh ones, cleaning himself off with water from the building's water tower, Lederer said. He bagged the clothes and later took them out with the building's trash, watching to make sure sanitation workers collected them, she said.
He bagged Bowen's head and hid it in a hole he dug in a nearby area, Lederer said. Her body was left on the roof, where it was discovered 15 days later. Her head has never been found, though Rothman said Ward had recently given investigators information to help them look for it.
Police and prosecutors in a cold-case unit reopened the case last year as part of a routine process of reviewing old cases, usually to see whether new DNA techniques might solve them. But Ward quickly gave them another form of potent evidence: His confession, they said.
"Cold cases are not forgotten cases," DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement Monday.
After Bowen's death, Ward moved on to another relationship that ended in violence. He admitted in 1994 to shooting and killing another girlfriend, caterer Sheila Jackson, in front of her roughly 11-year-old daughter at the home they all shared in February of that year in North Salem. It's a rural community in largely suburban Westchester County.
While serving his sentence for killing Jackson, Ward has gotten a high-school degree and gotten training in masonry and metal assembly, among other things, according to state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision spokeswoman Linda Foglia.
He also has been trying to forge ties to his children, recently meeting with them under authorities' watch "to air out some things," his lawyer said.
"He's very reserved, very calm," Rothman said. "His motivation, at this point, appears to be to have some type of relationship with his children."
Rothman said Ward's son was in court Monday for his father's arraignment, having said he felt a tie to his father whatever the truth of Bowen's death.
Reached Monday at the apartment where they still live in the building where Bowen was killed, Ward's relatives declined to comment.
Efforts to find Bowen's relatives were unsuccessful.
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