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DALLAS (CBS11) – After nearly three weeks of emotional–and sometimes plodding testimony from experts–it all comes down to this: should Erbie Bowser die for a shooting spree that left three women and a 17-year-old girl dead?
The former Mavs ManiAAC dancer was convicted of capital murder last week. Now the same jurors that rejected an insanity defense must decide if his next stop should be death row.
“I ask you for the ultimate punishment,” prosecutor Glen Fitzmartin told jurors, “because it is the ultimate crime.”
Although prosecutors only tried Bowser for the murder of Neima Williams, the adult daughter of his estranged wife, Zina Williams Bowser, the defense team did not dispute the details of the grisly 2013 shooting spree.
Jurors heard testimony that on the night of August 7, 2013, Bowser was arguing with his live-in girlfriend, Toya Smith at her Dallas home. Prosecutors say Smith was looking to end the relationship and put Bowser out. He shot Smith’s 17-year-old daughter, Tasmia Allen, at point blank range in the head. The teen who was a drill team dancer and dreamed of becoming a teacher, died with a piece of pizza in her hand. Jurors were shown crime scene photos of the teen’s body lying just inches from the lifeless body of her mother. Dasmine Mitchell, a teenage friend, was also wounded along with Smith’s young son, Storm Malone.
During closing arguments in the punishment phase, prosecutor LaQuita Long called Bowser “the great pretender…a man who harms children.” And anticipating defense efforts to elicit sympathy, Long acknowledged that “he was raised in a good home, had loving parents…what is mitigating about any of that? [Bowser] is a good person, until someone makes him mad.”
And that, prosecutors, argued, was at the root of the carnage. Bowser wasn’t mad–as in insane–he was angry.
Prosecutor Glen Fitzmartin recounted the carnage in detail for jurors– and reminded them that had they believed that Bowser would have stopped the violence after the initial murder, and then after the second or the third… that they “would have been wrong.”
Whether jurors believe Bowser has the capacity for future violence is key. Judge Tracy Holmes instructed jurors to only consider two questions as they began deliberations: whether Bowser would likely commit violent crimes in the future and be an ongoing threat, and secondly whether there are any mitigating factors that would warrant sparing his life.
“Mercy says more about you than it does him,” said Andy Beach with Bowser’s defense team, telling the jury “each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” Beach showed the jury photos of a young Erbie Bowser, playing the saxophone and celebrating athletic accomplishments and pleaded with the jury to spare his life. Beach reminded jurors that that failing to reach a unanimous decision to impose the death penalty is also still a legitimate verdict. If Bowser is not sentenced to death, he will serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
“We aren’t talking about vengeance,” Beach reminded jurors, “we’re not talking about emotion, revenge or hate.” Beach asked jurors to consider that Bowser could still help others from behind bars,and argued that the the death penalty is “not for the worst of the worst crimes; but, for the worst of the worst people that commit them.”
And that, prosecutors argued, is Erbie Bowser.
Fitzmartin concluded the punishment phase by drawing a vivid picture for jurors, reminding them of the terror that Bowser’s victim’s faced, and also the betrayal.
Jurors were once again shown a brief video clip of Bowser hiding a pen camera to record Smith’s teenage daughter getting in and out of the shower. He is also spotted on the videotape positioning that same camera in the teenager’s room, facing her bed. Fitzmartin allowed the question to hang in the mind of jurors, just exactly what might have been Bowser’s purpose for wanting to videotape the teenager’s bed when he already had some 19 videos of her nudity. All this, just days before she and her mother would be shot dead.
Still, Fitzmartin wasn’t done with a closing that had relatives and survivors once again in tears. Jurors heard the horrified screams of Toya Smith’s mother on the 911 call she made upon discovering the bodies. Police testified earlier in the trial that they were concerned that Zina Williams Bowser could be in danger as well– but, Bowser had already driven to his estranged wife’s DeSoto home.
Jurors were reminded of the hand grenade he tossed at the home, before shooting Zina and then Williams in the head. Zina’s then 10 and 13-year-old sons were wounded. Bowser was heard on a 911 call asking for their whereabouts by name as they hid. Jurors once again heard their frightened voices telling the dispatcher that “they’re all dead” and that “Erbie Bowser” shot them.
The final image that jurors would carry into their deliberations, was a picture of Neima Williams’ young son. The then 3-year-old had escaped without physical injury after his young uncles hid him under some coats in the closet. But, he, argued Fitzmartin, would perhaps pay the highest price of all of the child victims: too young to even have memories of the mother taken from him.