first_imgPrompted by an author’s inquiry into a boy’s disappearance in 1957, police are investigating whether a serial murderer from Sylmar who confessed to killing six children may be responsible for nearly a dozen other slayings in Southern California. On March 23, 1957, 8-year-old Tommy Bowman disappeared while on a brief hike in the Arroyo Seco, less than a mile from the Altadena home the family was visiting. “I’ll beat you to the car,” Tommy told his two cousins before rounding a corner and vanishing. Massive searches were organized – first for simply a lost child, then for Tommy’s body. Weeks later, with leads exhausted, the boy’s parents and siblings returned to their Redondo Beach home and tried to cope with life without Tommy. Startling confession On March 6, 1970, Edwards walked into the Los Angeles Police Department’s Foothill Station with a loaded handgun and confessed to kidnapping three young sisters after two of them escaped. He also confessed to a string of grisly murders that had horrified Southern California for more than a decade and that earned him a place on Death Row: Stella Darlene Nolan, 8, had been abducted from her Norwalk home and sexually abused before being strangled in the Angeles National Forest. Three years later, Donald Baker and Brenda Howell left their Azusa neighborhood on a bike ride and never returned. Edwards told authorities he slit the 11-year-olds’ throats and dumped their bodies off Mount Baldy Road. In 1968, Gary Rocha, 13, was found shot to death in his Granada Hills home. A month later, 16-year-old Roger Madison of Sylmar left home on his motorcycle and was never seen again. The following spring, the body of Donald Allen Todd, 13, of Pacoima, was found shot to death under a pedestrian bridge near his home. Baker was Edwards’ neighbor in Azusa; Howell was his wife’s younger sister; Madison was one of his adopted son’s schoolmates. Their bodies were never found. Brags of 18 killings DeWalt made the first tenuous connection between Edwards and Tommy Bowman when he happened across newspaper stories about the convicted murderer. Edwards didn’t mention Tommy in his original confession to authorities, but later bragged in prison that he’d murdered 18 people, DeWalt said. Then DeWalt recalled a police sketch of Tommy’s abductor, based on witnesses’ statements, and found it strongly resembled photos of Edwards. “I studied the sketch, I studied the photographs,” DeWalt said. “I went from one to the other, warning myself against what appeared to be too easy a reach.” Finally, a letter written by Edwards and found in his widow’s home convinced DeWalt of Tommy’s fate. In it, he talks about confessing to the murders of the six youths. “I was going to add one more to the first statement, and that was the Tommy Bowman boy that disappeared in Pasadena,” DeWalt recounted the letter said. “But I felt I would really make a mess of that one, so I left him out of it.” Flores said that statement convinced her of Edwards’ guilt. “That right there puts me over the top,” she said. “If he didn’t know about Tommy Bowman, he wouldn’t have mentioned it.” Tommy’s father, Eldon Bowman, never stopped wondering what happened to his son and laments that Tommy’s mother, Mary Bowman, died several years ago, still wondering. But after 50 years of hope, the 85-year-old isn’t ready to embrace entirely what DeWalt and police now believe happened to his son. “It makes the most sense, as much as I don’t like to think about it,” said Bowman, who now lives in Simi Valley. “It isn’t finalized, but it probably is the best explanation anyone has come up with so far.” [email protected] (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4444 How to help Law enforcement officials suspect convicted serial murderer Mack Ray Edwards may be responsible for 10 unsolved child killings in the 1950s and ’60s. Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500 or the LAPD Cold Case Division at (213) 847-0970. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Five decades later, Pasadena author Weston DeWalt believes he’s uncovered the truth about Tommy’s disappearance. He thinks the 8-year-old fell prey to Mack Ray Edwards of Sylmar, who confessed to murdering a half-dozen children and who police now suspect may have killed nearly a dozen more. “I absolutely believe he’s responsible for the disappearance of Tommy Bowman,” said Vivian Flores, a detective with the LAPD’s Cold Case Homicide Unit whom DeWalt consulted during his two-year investigation. Flores and other law-enforcement officials consider Edwards a “person of interest” in the disappearance or slaying of 10 other children, including Bruce Kremen, 7, from the Angeles National Forest in 1960; and Karen Tompkins and Dorothy Brown, both 11 and from Torrance, in 1961 and 1962, respectively. But with Edwards long dead – he committed suicide in 1971 while awaiting execution on San Quentin’s Death Row – Flores can hope only to bring a sense of closure to Tommy’s father and others like him. “I’ve never met Tommy Bowman’s father, but to find out what happened, to let him know where his kid is and maybe bring his body home, is more satisfying,” Flores said. last_img

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