During a three-hour hearing Wednesday afternoon, evidence presented by Loudoun County prosecutors showed that a diagnosed schizophrenic purchased a shotgun in a Walmart parking lot and then used the weapon to fatally shoot his father before burning the family’s house to cover the crime.
Michael F. Bowles, 20, is charged with first-degree murder in the July 25 death of his father, Mario M. Bowles, 52.
Bowlers has been in custody since he was found walking on a road near his parent’s burn-out Steed Hill Lane home at 2:30 a.m. July 26.
During the hearing in Loudoun County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Judge Avelina S. Jacobs heard testimony from nine prosecution witnesses before ruling that there was probable cause to send the case to a grand jury for review.
Testifying were a psychiatrist who was treating Bowles, fire and Sheriff’s Office investigators who responded to the scene, and two of Bowles’ high school friends.
Psychiatrist Sabah Hadi said he had diagnosed Bowles as a high-functioning schizophrenic in late 2014. The condition could largely be controlled by medication, but Bowles resisted taking it, he said. Without the medication, Bowles could be delusional, paranoid and have hallucinations—and frequently combative with his parents.
Bowles’ last meeting with Hadi was July 6 when he reported that he was doing everything his parents asked, the doctor said. But early on July 25, Bowles’ mother came to the office seeking to get medication for her son.
“She, in fact, was crying out for help, essentially,” Hadi said.
It was that afternoon that the first call came in from a Lucketts-area neighbor reporting heavy smoked nearby. Crews from Lucketts and Lovettsville responded first, just after 5 p.m., finding heavy fire in the two-story home.
One of the firefighters found something else as he prepared to carry a firehose through the front door. A shotgun was lying on a piece of porch furniture outside. While the Sheriff’s Office secured that evidence, crews worked through the night to extinguish the fire.
A search began for Bowles and his father, both of whom were unaccounted for. Deputies from throughout the county and the Fairfax County Police helicopter were called to assist in the search.
The next day, fire investigators found Mario Bowles’ burned remains under collapsed wreckage. Evidence showed that he can been on his back on the second floor when he and the carpet were doused with gasoline. A large gunshot wound was visible on the back of his torso.
Michael Bowles, who was seen earlier in the day at the Lucketts Gasmart, was spotted by fire crews walking on Rosefinch Circle. He was taken into custody without incident. At the Sheriff’s Office headquarters, investigators tested his hands for gun primer residue.
In the lab, the samples turned up positive—with two particles on found each hand. The lab expert said it was unusual—but not impossible—for residue to remain on a living human for more than 6 hours. Bowles was tested 12 to 13 hours after the shooting is believed to have occurred.
How does a schizophrenic mental patient acquire a weapon? According to Wednesday’s testimony: Facebook.
James Nowland, a high school friend who played football with Bowles at Tuscarora High School, said he posted a photo of his Stevens 12-gauge on his Facebook page saying he wanted to sell it. Bowles contacted him through Facebook messenger offering to buy it for $200, $50 over the asking price.
Two days later, on July 26, 2016, they met in the Leesburg Walmart parking lot and completed the transaction, Nowland said.
He also noted that the weapon was in almost new condition when he sold it. When found at the scene the barrel had been shortened and the stock removed or shortened.
Another childhood friend testified that Bowles had reached out to him two days before the fire saying he wanted to talk about “something very sacred.” When he found out that Bowles wanted to “sacrifice” him, he cut off contact.
Bowles’ case was sent the Dec. 11 grand jury session. He is expected to appear in Loudoun County Circuit Court the following morning for arraignment on charges resulting from any indictment.