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Charges dropped for man jailed two years in baby's death

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

More than two years after he was charged with abusing and murdering a baby girl, the case against Philanders Lamont Bowie has been dropped.

Documents filed in Clayton County Superior Court say Bowie could not be proven guilty and is, based on the evidence, the least likely suspect.

The 26-year-old College Park man is now free after spending two years in the county jail and more than two years facing allegations he had brutally killed his girlfriend's infant daughter.

In July 2005, Makayla Denise Valley died. Her 1-year-old liver ruptured, according to an autopsy report, draining liquid into her stomach.

When Clayton County Police found her, she was wearing nothing but a pair of broken, yellow earrings and a dirty, bloody diaper. The girl was dead and Bowie was watching her and admitted to shaking her.

According to the autopsy report, Valley had been beaten about the head. She had cuts and bruises on both sides of her face and her legs, arms, back and chest were all covered by cuts and bruises. Her fingers had been burned.

Bowie told detectives he had been watching the girl, when she died. He said she had seemed lethargic and he had shaken her. The girl's mother, Candace Jakes, told police she had cleaned the girl with a wash rag, five hours before, and she was fine.

According to Bowie's attorney, Joe Roberto, the police made the natural conclusion when they saw "the defendant and a dead baby, and he'd been there for the last five hours." Bowie was indicted on charges of malice murder, felony murder and cruelty to children. The indictment accused Bowie of "repeatedly throwing her into and a against a metal framed chair," causing "cruel and excessive pain."

Unable to make bond, even when it was reduced to $20,000, Bowie sat in jail until Dec. 2007. He requested a change of attorney, and waited for trial.

The case was complicated, time-consuming, convoluted, and largely contingent on a detailed and technical autopsy report, Roberto said, making the case one of the slowest-moving cases in Clayton County. Bowie waited for two and a half years, until autopsy evidence undermined the case against him.

In a pretrial conversation with Roberto, and then again in a pretrial conversation with Assistant District Attorney Holly Veal, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's medical investigation said the fatal injury rupturing the baby's liver had happened 24 to 36 hours before she died. The medical examiner said that Valley had been "chronically abused," judging by the injuries document during autopsy, and had spent the last days of her life "sick, throwing up ... lifeless and lethargic."

A review of the detectives' original interviews -- about 23 hours of video tape -- showed that Bowie said the baby girl had been sick for about a week, but the girl's mother "refused to take the girl to the hospital" because "self-inflicted wounds" would look bad to the Department of Family and Child Services.

A review of the original investigation showed the detectives repeatedly questioned the mother, telling her that her story didn't match the evidence.

According to Roberto, there was confusion, early in the investigation, about the time frame. At some point, he said, investigators, prosecutors and the media all understood the autopsy to say that Valley couldn't have lived for more than 24 hours with her wounds, where the evidence actually showed the injury occurred at least 24 hours before she died.

"This happens a lot with the press and with law enforcement," Roberto said. "They latch onto an idea or a concept and reduce it to writing and assume that's the truth. 'This baby couldn't of lived for 24 hours.' It doesn't match the forensics or the evidence. But the more the media hype deviates from the evidence, latching on to the idea, the prosecution creates its own red herring."

With the trial set for Feb. 4, Veal spoke to the medical examiner in January and reviewed the evidence in light of the determined time of death, finding that Bowie had "the least contact with the child."

The 1-year-old's mother and uncle lived in the same house and the prosecution could not show, according to court documents dismissing the case, who was responsible for abusing and murdering the girl. The forensically determined time of injury means it is difficult, if not impossible, to connect Valley's death to one person.

On Feb. 1, Veal entered a "nolle prosequi" on all three charges against Bowie, dismissing the case.

Bowie is now trying to put his life back together, Roberto said, trying to move on.

"He can now set his life back on course," the attorney said, "now that he doesn't have this over his head."