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Runaway Train: The Aundria Bowman Story






Cathy Terkanian was just seventeen years old when she gave birth to a daughter that she named Alexis. Although she had left home years earlier, she decided to return home with her infant in hopes of getting support from her family and her mother. Cathy and her mother had a strained relationship, but Cathy hoped that she would be willing to help the young mother raise her child. However, Cathy did not receive the support she hoped for.

Cathy’s mother informed her that she was battling breast cancer and wasn’t sure she would survive long enough to raise her own children, let alone help Cathy with her child. Cathy’s mother contacted Catholic Charities and was advised that Cathy should relinquish her parental rights and allow her five-month-old daughter to be adopted for the child’s own good. Catholic Charities offered no support to Cathy, just pressured her to give up her child. The adoption plan was orchestrated by the Catholic Charities and Cathy’s mother. Under intense pressure and no support, Cathy gave Alexis up to be adopted.

Alexis was adopted by Dennis and Brenda Bowman who settled in Hamilton, Michigan to raise their new daughter, renamed Aundria Bowman. Cathy always loved her daughter and thought of her often. Cathy planned to search for her daughter once she reached adulthood. Eventually, however, she was contacted by investigators and told that her birth daughter had been missing since 1989. Aundria was fourteen the last time her adopted parents had seen her. Cathy, devastated, started on a path to find her daughter.

Dennis was a part of the Catholic Charities handling the adoption, which is how he came to adopt Aundria. However, Cathy later learned that Dennis Bowman had a criminal record prior to adopting Aundria. It is unclear how he was permitted to adopt a child with a criminal record.

When Aundria was six, Dennis was arrested after pulling a gun on a nineteen-year-old, attempting to force her into the woods, and attempting to sexually assault her. He also threatened to kill her, according to the girl. The girl escaped and reported the incident to police. Dennis was identified and admitted to attempting to sexually assault the girl but denied the attempted murder. He pled guilty to the attempted sexual assault and sentenced to 5-10 years in prison. The attempted murder charge was dropped. He served less than five years and returned to the home when Aundria was eleven. After his release from prison, Brenda and Dennis had a biological daughter as well.

In November of 1988, Aundria came to school with cuts on her arms and seemed to be withdrawn. She told her teacher that she was afraid to go home because her father was sexually abusing her. A social worker was sent to the home, but the accusation was denied by Brenda and Dennis. They rationalized that Aundria was rebelling against them after learning that she was adopted. Despite his background and criminal history, the social worker believed Dennis and the case was dropped.

On March 11th, 1989, Dennis Bowman called the police to report his daughter missing. He said that he was missing $100 and that Aundria told her parents she wanted to find her biological parents. Dennis told authorities he believed Aundria stole his money and ran away. Aundria was considered a run-away by authorities. Some tips came in that Aundria had been spotted in various parts of Michigan. One of these alleged sightings claimed that Aundria was visibly pregnant as well. However, the calls were all determined to have been made by Brenda Bowman. Dennis, Brenda, and their eighteen-month-old daughter moved away shortly after Aundria’s disappearance.

The case of Aundria’s disappearance went cold quickly and to be honest, wasn’t thoroughly investigated initially because she was considered a run-a-way. However, she was featured on the music video for “Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum in 1993. The video featured several missing youths and led to the safe recovery of some. Cathy remembers seeing the video in the early 1990’s and thinking how horrible it must be for parents to have a missing child. Little did she know, she was looking at her own child.

Some people were suspicious of Brenda and Dennis after Aundria’s disappearance. For one thing, they seemed to remove all memories and pictures of Aundria from their home. As their biological daughter grew older, she allegedly told someone that her sister was dead and later claimed that she didn’t even have a sister. Despite the odd behavior and genuine lack of concern for their missing child, no evidence was found to charge the couple with any crime.

In 1998, Dennis became infatuated with a woman he worked with and began stalking her. He broke into her trailer, stole her panties, and cut slits in her blinds so he could spy on her. He was caught at one point breaking into her home. He was arrested and found to have a shot gun on him, illegal for a convicted felon. He was also found to have her panties and binoculars. He claimed he broke into the trailer because he had to use the bathroom urgently. He was only charged with breaking and entering. He wrote a letter to the judge prior to sentencing describing himself as “a good man” and describing that he was a father to two daughters. However, he failed to mention that one of his daughters had been missing ten years. He served just one year in prison followed by five years of probation.

In 1999, a body of a young woman was found in Racine County that resembled Aundria. After two years of asking Dennis to give permission to the adoption agency to open her file so that DNA could be obtained from her biological parents, Dennis finally consented in 2001. That is when Cathy learned that her daughter was missing. Authorities also told her they suspected Dennis may have been involved in the disappearance of Aundria. The DNA was not a match to the Racine County Jane Doe, later identified as Peggy Lynn Johnson. Cathy was not going to give up until she found Aundria.

Kathleen Doyle was found murdered in her Norfolk, Virginia home in 1980. She had been raped, strangled, and stabbed. This case was a cold case until 1984 when serial killer Henry Lee Lucas confessed to the murder along with his partner Otis Toole. They also admitted to the murder of Adam Walsh, who’s death led to the formation of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They later recanted and there wasn’t any evidence to link them to the crime. It is believed they admitted to many 200 homicides in order to manipulate law enforcement. No charges were never pursued against the two for Kathleen’s murder. The case was once again cold.

In 2018, samples from the thirty-eight-year-old murder were tested with advanced DNA technology and a match was found. At age seventy, Dennis Bowman was charged in 2019 with the murder of Kathleen Doyle. Dennis confessed to Kathleen’s murder, claiming that he was drunk and broke into Kathleen’s house. He raped her, stabbed her, and beat her. He claimed, however, that she was still breathing when he left. Aundria had been five years old at the time of Kathleen’s murder and living with Dennis.

The arrest of Dennis Bowman led authorities to question him about Aundria’s disappearance. In February of 2020, Dennis told authorities that he had been arguing with Aundria, then fourteen, and he hit her. He said she fell backwards and accidently fell down the stairs, breaking her neck. Police immediately began searching for her remains, finding them just a few days later. Aundria was found in a shallow grave in Dennis and Brenda’s backyard under a thin layer of cement. DNA proved that the remains were that of the baby Cathy had given up so many years ago. Dennis was charged with murder, child abuse, and mutilation of a corpse.

Dennis Bowman pled guilty in Virginia in June 2020 to murder, rape, and burglary in the case of Kathleen Doyle. He was sentenced to two life sentences for the murder and rape and an additional twenty years for the burglary charge. Dennis Bowman pled not guilty in July of 2021 to the pending charges in relation to Aundria. His trial is set for January 11th, 2022. Cathy continues to fight for justice for her daughter and currently manages a Facebook page entitled “Justice for Aundria Bowman”.


Can you imagine being pressured to give your child up for the “child’s sake” and thinking that you were making the best possible decision for your child only for something like this to happen? Cathy said “I just believed what I was told… besides who would adopt and then do harm to the child they so needed to complete their lives? Surely not the people who adopted my much loved beautiful child! After I spoke with detectives who found me I realized how wrong I was and how much Alexis likely suffered… and ultimately what likely happened to her. I lost it! I have known evil in my life. I know what kind of person it takes to conduct such evil… but in my wildest dreams I never thought evil would get my child… after all I had saved her by letting her be adopted!” (Musing of a Birthmom, 2021). One thing is for certain, Alexis, as her birth mother refers to her, was not better off being adopted and the system failed her in numerous ways. Hopefully, the justice system will not fail her once again in 2022.




Runaway Train Video: Runaway Train.mpeg - Google Drive



References

Musings of a Birthmom (2021) A Birthmother’s Worst Nightmare – Aundria Bowman/Alexis Badger; Retrieved at: A Birthmother’s Worst Nightmare – Aundria Bowman/Alexis Badger – Musings of a Birthmom: The Honest Ramblings of a First Mother

Shannon, Rachel (2020) Solved 30 Years Later: The Murders of Aundria Bowman and Kathleen Doyle; Retrieved at: (12) SOLVED 30 YEARS LATER: The Murders of Aundria Bowman and Kathleen Doyle - YouTube

Wikipedia (accessed 2021) Runaway Train (Soul Asylum Song); Retrieved at: Runaway Train (Soul Asylum song) - Wikipedia

Muyskens, C. (2021) Man’s trial for 1989 murder of daughter set for January; Holland Sentinel; Retrieved at: Dennis Bowman's trial set for January 2022 (hollandsentinel.com)

Muyskens, C. (2020) Hamilton man pleads guilty to 1980 murder of Virginia woman; Hollan Sentinel; Retrieved at: Hamilton man pleads guilty to 1980 murder of Virginia woman (hollandsentinel.com)


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