By Daniel Silliman
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is pushing to have a case against a 26-year-old reopened, after county prosecutors cited the GBI while dismissing it.
Philanders Lamont Bowie was charged with the murder of 19-month-old Makayla Denise Valley, who died while Bowie was baby-sitting for her mother. He reportedly confessed to killing the little girl, during the 23 hours he was interviewed by police, and spent more than two years in jail awaiting trial.
The case against the College Park man was dropped in early February, after two prosecutors in the District Attorney's office, and the defense attorney representing Bowie, talked with the GBI's medical examiner about the autopsy report.
Now, three months after the dismissal, the GBI is saying the three attorneys misunderstood the medical examiner's explanations of the autopsy.
The infant was found dead in July 2005 by the Clayton County Police, wearing a bloody diaper and a pair of broken, yellow earrings. She died of a ruptured liver. The three attorneys understood the autopsy report to say the rupture happened 24 to 36 hours before the baby died, not during the five hours when Bowie was baby-sitting.
Days before a trial was scheduled to start, a Clayton County assistant district attorney filed to dismiss the case, saying Bowie could not be proven guilty and, based on the evidence, was the least likely suspect.
The indictment handed down by the grand jury had accused 26-year-old Bowie of "repeatedly throwing her into and against a metal framed chair," causing "cruel and excessive pain," but the autopsy reported the girl had been "chronically abused."
Valley spent the last days of her life "sick, throwing up ... lifeless and lethargic," had cuts and bruises on both sides of her face, on her legs, arms, back and chest, and her fingers had been burned, according to documents filed at the Clayton County courthouse. During the Clayton County Police Department's 23-hours of interviews with Bowie, he told them the baby girl had been sick, but the girl's mother "refused to take the girl to the hospital," because she was afraid of the Department of Family and Child Services.
Valley's mother, Candace Jakes, also was considered a suspect by the police, and allegedly gave investigators inconsistent stories about how the 19-month-old had been injured, but she was never charged with anything.
At some point, during his interviews with police, Bowie broke down and cried, confessing he had hurt the child. A videotape of his interviews shows him curled up in the corner of the interview room, crying. He was charged with murder, until the autopsy report appeared to contradict his emotional statement of guilt.
Now, the GBI is saying there wasn't a contradiction between the 26-year-old's confession and the medical examiner's findings.
John Bankhead, GBI spokesman, said he couldn't discuss the precise misunderstanding alleged, but said the medical examiner didn't believe the case should have been dismissed, and wanted to talk to prosecutors about reopening it.
According to John Turner, the chief prosecutor in the district attorney's office, the GBI claims there was some confusion about the time of the fatal injury. The district attorney's office, he said, is scheduling a meeting to talk with the GBI about the case.
"The medical examiner is disputing the dismissal after the fact," Turner said. "Both the defense attorney and the prosecutors are on the same wave length, but we intend to schedule a meeting with the medical examiner."
The request to reopen the case came after Valley's mother went on television to plead for justice, and after two candidates campaigning for the district attorney's office cited the dead child in attacks on District Attorney Jewel Scott.
Tracy Graham-Lawson, a juvenile court judge, said being a voice for victims, especially children, motivated her decision to run for district attorney. At a recent campaign forum, Graham-Lawson alluded to Valley, saying Scott should not be re-elected because, under her administration, "childrens' murders go unavenged."
Herbert Adams, a defense attorney and a municipal judge, was more direct in citing Valley. The girl's mother attended Adams' campaign announcement.
Adams said, "They have been suffering for nearly three years. Today, I stand with Makayla's mother, family and friends, and together we ask, 'Madam DA, how much longer do we wait for justice to be served?'"
Adams said he would, if elected, reopen the case. He has not read the autopsy report, and didn't know the cause of death, but he said the report is "only one piece of evidence," and said Bowie's confession and Jakes' testimony justify prosecution.
Scott dismissed criticism from her opponents, saying they didn't know any of the details of the case they were talking about.
"Everybody in that house [where Valley died] should have been charged," Scott said. "All of them."
Her office is scheduling a meeting with the medical examiner, she said, and will consider reopening the case, or bringing other charges.
The meeting could happen this week, she said.