Accountant admitted role in death, detective says


A 57-year-old accountant admitted to police that he played a role in the chloroform inhalation death of his 20-year-old girlfriend, according to a detective who testified at a Howard Circuit Court hearing yesterday.

Melvin Robert Bowers of Ellicott City told investigators after his arrest that he helped his girlfriend hold a rag soaked with chloroform over her mouth to treat a toothache, Sgt. Stephen Prozeralik testified.

Mr. Bowers, a divorced father of four children, reported that the last thing he remembered before falling asleep was that Geneva Marie Hodge of Baltimore still had the rag over her mouth in the early morning hours of Sept. 6, Sergeant Prozeralik said.

Deputy Public Defender Louis Willemin is asking Judge James Dudley to prevent county prosecutors from using statements Mr. Bowers gave to Sergeant Prozeralik and other detectives at his client's trial, which is scheduled for March 9.

The hearing on the statements is to continue on March 7. Mr. Willemin is expected to argue that the statements should be suppressed because Mr. Bowers did not voluntarily give them to police.

The certified public accountant is charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment and inhaling harmful substances in the death of Ms. Hodge. He could be sentenced to 15 1/2 years in prison if convicted.

An autopsy revealed that Ms. Hodge died from inhaling chloroform, a toxic liquid sometimes used in small doses by dentists. The autopsy also showed that Ms. Hodge had been drinking on the night she died.

Sergeant Prozeralik testified that Mr. Bowers said that he had given Ms. Hodge chloroform to treat toothaches in the past without any problems.

Mr. Bowers told the detective that he was "guessing" that someone could inhale chloroform for about two minutes without being harmed.

When Mr. Bowers said he woke up about 7 a.m., he discovered that Ms. Hodge had no pulse, Sergeant Prozeralik testified.

After his attempt to revive Ms. Hodge failed, Mr. Bowers reported that he considered burying the body in the back yard of his home in the 2800 block of Southview Road, Sergeant Prozeralik said. He said he also considered fleeing, as he had seen a character do in the movie "The Fugitive."

Sergeant Prozeralik testified that he asked Mr. Bowers why he waited until about 3 p.m. to call 911. Mr. Bowers "said he wanted to do CPR and bring her back to life," the detective said.

On cross-examination, Sergeant Prozeralik said he did not take any notes of his conversation with Mr. Bowers, which started about 3 a.m. and lasted for about 20 minutes.

He said he was aware that Mr. Bowers initially said he would not make any statements to police until he consulted with an attorney. The sergeant noted, however, that Mr. Bowers asked to talk with him.

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