Loudoun Circuit Court Judge Jeanette Irby today sentenced Michael Bowles to serve two consecutive life sentences after he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and arson in the July 25, 2017 death of his father.
The now-22-year-old fatally shot Mario Bowles with a sawed-off shotgun in the face, chest and back, and then burned down his parents’ Lucketts-area home.
Ryan Campbell, Bowles’ defense attorney, told Irby that it would be “overly simplistic” to impose a life sentence because of the “complicated nature” of the case. He argued that Bowles’ cannabis-use psychosis often masked his schizophrenia and that the court still lacked clarity in his motivations for the crime. He argued that without knowing that, it wouldn’t be proper to impose sentences that would not allow Bowles to be rehabilitated.
“Mario would want mercy,” he said. “Evelyn [Bowles’ mother] would want mercy.”
Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Sean Morgan told Irby that there was no evidence of cannabis use affecting Bowles’ mental state when he killed his father. “There’s nothing complicated about this case,” he said.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Amy McMullen told Irby that Bowles was “dangerously and criminally mentally ill” and that he has “never expressed any shred of remorse” for killing his father. “These are not the actions of someone who wants to get better. These are the actions of a dangerous individual,” she said.
In handing down her sentence, Irby noted that Bowles had made no effort in the past two years to get mental help and has expressed “no remorse whatsoever.”
“I don’t know if you’re schizophrenic or you’re a sociopath,” she told Bowles. “You do not want to be saved—you are out for Michael Bowles and nobody else.”
At one point during her remarks, Irby stopped to asked Bowles if she was boring him. Irby’s sentence came after nearly three hours of victim impact statements from Bowles’ grandmother, his two aunts, his uncle, his former probation officer and the detective who investigated the crime scene two years ago.
Before hearing those statements, Irby denied a motion made by Bowles’ attorney to withdraw Bowles’ guilty plea. Campbell said that Bowles’ felt that he was illegally detained, but Irby ultimately found that there was “no substantive or reasonable defense” to such a request.
During the victims’ statements, Elizabeth Boden, a probation manager with the county’s Department of Community Corrections, said she told Bowles in 2015 that he needed to see a therapist for the mental issues he was experiencing, rather than continue a practice of merely spending 10 minutes with his private psychiatrist for “med checks.” Boden was assigned to Bowles’ case for animal cruelty after he was charged with the stabbing death of his family dog.
Boden also pointed out that that Bowles was released from Edgehill Recovery Retreat after just four days for “inappropriate behavior” and sent to the Loudoun jail.
During Boden’s statement, McMullen played a 4-minute recording of a phone call that Bowles made to his father in August 2015 while in jail for the dog attack. He pleaded for Mario to get him out. When Mario asked if he had been taking his medication, Bowles said that was “not an issue at all.” “Please get me out, please,” Bowles said to his father in the call.
The tears and wails from family members came out when Francesca Bowles, Michael’s aunt, labelled Mario as being “athletic,” “strong,” “handsome,” “smart” and “caring.” At one point in her statement, she turned her attention Michael.
“He was a good father to you, Michael,” she told him while crying. “You murdered your own father—how could you?”
Francesca said that Mario’s “kind heart is what led to his death” and that his murder “has caused nothing but sadness throughout our entire family.”
Pia Bowles, Michael’s grandmother, could hardly speak through her tears while on the witness stand. She said it “was a joy” to be Mario’s mother and that Mario “was worried about Michael,” but that his father would want Michael to own up to what he did.
Pia Bowles said that at first, she maintained a relationship with Michael and that she felt sorry for him and that Mario would have wanted her to keep loving him, but that she doesn’t know what to do now. “Mario probably would say, ‘have mercy,’ but I don’t know,” she said.
Daniela Bowles, Michael’s aunt and Mario’s youngest sister, was more critical in her description of the crime and in her accusations toward Michael, calling him a “genius manipulator” who “mutilated” his father. She said Michael didn’t deserve her sympathy or love.
Bowles’ mother, Evelyn, did not attend the sentencing hearing.
Bowles was originally charged with first-degree murder, arson, the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, shooting or stabbing in the commission of a felony, concealing a dead body, shooting in an occupied building and use of a sawed-off gun in a crime.
As part of the plea agreement made in February, prosecutors agreed to drop the charges of use of a firearm in the commission of felony, shooting or stabbing in the commission of a felony, concealing a dead body, shooting in an occupied building, and use of a sawed-off gun in a crime. Two additional charges stemming from a fight in the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center in July 2018—misdemeanor assault and battery and felony possession of an unauthorized weapon capable of death or bodily injury—were also dropped at that time.