CROWN POINT, Ind. – A Maine man pleaded guilty Tuesday in the 1979 torture slaying of an 8-year-old Gary boy.
David Bowen, 44, of Portland, Maine, pleaded guilty to the murder of Kenneth “Butch” Conrick as part of a plea agreement.
Lake County prosecutors dropped a second charge of murder in the perpetration of child molesting in return for the guilty plea and agreed that the maximum sentence Bowen could receive is 50 years in prison.
The boy was reported missing on Oct. 15, 1979. His nude body was found 13 days later in a wooded area near his family’s Gary home. He was bound to a tree and a cord had been tied around his neck. His body showed signs of brutal, prolonged torture, authorities said.
Prosecutor Bernard Carter said Bowen had forced the boy to perform a sexual act on him and became enraged when he stopped. Bowen stabbed the boy in the chest multiple times with a stick, then cut him with a piece of glass, Carter said.
Bowen, then 16, lived in the same neighborhood and emerged as a suspect. He had been accused of a violent sexual assault on a 9-year-old boy a year earlier, but police said that boy’s mother agreed not to press charges because Bowen underwent psychiatric treatment.
No physical evidence linked Bowen to Conrick’s slaying, so he was never charged.
As the investigation withered in Indiana, Bowen moved to Maine, where he made a life for himself, worked as a painter and got married and later divorced.
Investigators reopened the case three years ago. They located Bowen’s sister and took a DNA sample from her that showed enough similarities to genetic material found at the scene to link Bowen to the crime. He was arrested in Maine in December and extradited to Lake County.
Bowen is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 7.