Some surprising info on Louann Emma Bowers. She was 16 when she disappeared in 1993, leaving behind a note saying she was running away to get married. I later heard she was found safe in the summer of 2009, but had no other info. Well, now I do: the York Dispatch says Louann ran away with her uncle by marriage, Sinhue Johnson, who was then 28. She was stopped by a police officer in New York City in June 2009, identified, interviewed, and released back into oblivion. A few months later, child protective services found Louann, her uncle and their five kids in a hotel room. The children were completely hidden from the outside world:
The children range in age from 2 to 13 years old. They have no birth certificates, were never enrolled in school, never received medical care or vaccinations and had no documentation to prove they existed, police allege. For years, they lived in squalor at 734 S. Duke St. with no heat, no electric service, no water, no functioning toilet and a leaky roof, court documents allege.
[Police Detective Dana] Ward said they lived in one filth-covered room of the house, which is now condemned, and apparently used plastic sheets to gather – and use – rainwater leaking through the ceiling.
The children are now in foster care, enrolled in school and receiving medical attention, Ward said.
This article has a current picture of Louann and says, “The children aren’t at their expected education levels and there are possible mental-health issues with some of them.” Not a big surprise. More details:
“Everything was in complete disarray, covered in filth,” Ward said of the home’s interior. “It appeared the entire family was residing in a second-floor room.”
The building’s other rooms were uninhabitable because of clutter and structural deficiencies, he said.
In the room where the family allegedly lived, Ward found children’s clothing, dishes, pots and pans and a kerosene heater that was apparently used to cook on, he said. He also found one double bed and a set of bunk beds.
Water source? In another room, he found sheets of plastic hung to catch rain that leaked through the ceiling, Ward said. Rainwater that collected in the plastic sheets was funneled into buckets, he said.
“It appears that’s how they were getting water,” Ward said, as there was no water service to the building.
Both Louann and Johnson are now facing child endangerment charges in connection with this. The York Daily Record says they are facing additional unrelated weapons charges. Louann’s attorney says she was manipulated by Johnson and didn’t realize just how bad the situation was:
Bowers loves her children and never thought she was doing anything to hurt them, according to Gross, her defense attorney.
“She just thought it was their circumstance as a family,” he said. “She actually thought she was acting in a way that was best for her family, but she now understands there were many, many shortcomings. … She understands the consequences of her actions and the basis for these charges.”
Gross said he thinks Bowers’ own history factors into her “inaction” with respect to her children. He confirmed Bowers has been with Johnson since she was 16 and considers him her husband.
“The issue we have is that when you’re … with somebody, you tend to become what they want you to become, and that’s really where she’s at,” Gross said. “She has a very adolescent, immature view of love and loyalty.”
This reminds me a great deal of the Tanya Kach case. Except even more tragic because innocent children — though Louann was one as well — are involved here.