A jury in Montgomery County has begun hearing terrible details in the trial of a mother accused of killing two of her daughters and freezing their bodies.
During opening statements Wednesday, State's Attorney John McCarthy warned jurors the case could haunt them long after the trial is over.
Defendant Renee Bowman asphyxiated two of her adopted daughters in May 2006 when they lived in Rockville, prosecutors said. Police believe the girls' bodies were kept in a freezer and moved at least twice, when Bowman relocated to Calvert County.
Police found the freezer and the bodies and arrested Bowman in 2008 after her third daughter was found wandering around their Lusby neighborhood.
The survivor, now 9, clutched a large, white teddy bear she calls "Michael" in court Wednesday and she referred to Bowman as her "ex-mother." In response to questions from McCarthy, the girl testified that Bowman repeatedly beat and choked her and her sisters.
"There was a bucket where we went to the bathroom because we weren't allowed out of the room," she said.
Occasionally, the girl she flashed a wide grin and waved at her new foster parents, who were seated in the front row.
McCarthy asked her on what part of her body she was beaten the worst.
"The back part and the front part," she said.
Asked to demonstrate on the bear, she pointed to its backside and its crotch.
"Who hit you?" McCarthy asked.
"Ex-mother," she said. She never looked at Bowman, who was seated a few yards away.
The girl said Bowman also choked her and her sisters.
Asked how many times, she said: "I can't remember because she did it so often I couldn't keep track."
Asked how it felt, she said: "I couldn't breathe."
The girl testified that Bowman told her Jasmine and Minnet, her sisters, had gone to live with a friend. She said Bowman told her that her sisters had said "that I was stupid and dumb and they didn't want to see me anymore."
Defense attorney Alan Drew asked the girl about the term "ex-mother."
"I just don't like calling her by her name," she said.
Drew didn't have an easy time cross-examining the witness. When he repeated himself at one point, she told him: "You already asked that." The courtroom erupted in laughter.
The defense had tried to argue against allowing the girl's testimony, raising questions about children's memories and the possibility that she might internalize suggestions made by adults. But Montgomery County Circuit Judge Michael J. Algeo ruled that she was a competent witness and her testimony should be allowed.
It's unclear what kind of defense Bowman's attorneys plan to mount, and they offered no clues during opening statements Wednesday.
Last month in Calvert County, Bowman was sentenced to 25 years in prison on charges related to the abuse of the surviving daughter.
The current trial is expected to last a week.