State Trooper John Bowman lived with his wife, brother, sister-in-law, and his daughter in Manassas, Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C. It was a quiet neighborhood, the kind of safe, quaint place that you see in movies and TV shows.
Unfortunately, no place, no matter how quaint it may appear, is completely bereft of danger. We’ve seen it time and again, children stolen from their well-manicured front lawns, deadly home invasions and the like. Like everyone else who lives as such, the Bowman family thought that living with a police officer made their world safe. They were wrong.
It was a balmy August night in 1984. John Bowman, a state trooper, was sound asleep when he was awakened by the tell-tale song of his doorbell ringing. It was 4:15 in the morning, but Bowman assumed that if someone were to ring the bell at this time of night, something might be seriously wrong. He pulled himself out of bed and padded quietly to the door.
Bowman opened the door, only to find a stranger standing there, glaring at him menacingly. A moment later and the two were rolling on the floor, each one trying to kill the other. Sadly, Bowman was unarmed and the mysterious stranger was not. Before he fled, the stranger had made short work of the off-duty trooper, stabbing him more than 40 times.
Nikki Bowman, John’s daughter, was only two years old at the time, but she remembers that fateful night as if it were yesterday. She recalled being awakened by the sounds of a scuffle outside her room and the sadness that hung thick as fog around the house afterward. She remembers the sunrise and the grim, hard-to-process news that her father had been killed.
Paramedics and police officers were called to the scene, but it was too late. Nevertheless, the attacker, or possible attackers, hadn’t been exceptionally careful about their departure. A pair of sunglasses, a wig, and a construction hard hat had been left behind. Unfortunately, DNA testing at the time hadn’t become advanced enough to give the police any leads.
Despite the lack of viable forensic evidence, the killing of the off-duty officer was certainly the type of situation to spur a number of local agencies into action. What followed was one of the most costly murder investigations in the history of the Virginia State Police.
Over the following year, more than 3,000 people in 41 different states were interviewed by police following the murder. Despite this and the extensive efforts made to find Bowman’s killer, the case continued to mystify investigators. Then, in 1985, police officials came forward and told the public that they would not close the case, not until the murder was solved.
Even if they weren’t about to close the case, investigators still conceded that key elements of the crime were still open to interpretation. The time and the location of the killing itself, separate from the Bowman home anyway, remained as baffling as they had previously. Soon, the FBI became involved as well. They considered the murder to be a line-of-duty death.
In 1986, Virginia state police, with assistance from a special agent with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, came forward with some good news about the Bowman case. They were “99.4 percent certain” that they knew who the killer might be. Not only that, they also planned to make an arrest soon. The only thing stopping them was that the suspect was one of their own.
The Bureau of Criminal Investigation believed that their suspect was a member of the state police, fellow trooper Perry L. Worrell. There was a bit of a problem with the assertion that Worrell was the key suspect, however. They didn’t have nearly enough evidence to charge him, let alone convict him.
Worrell’s lawyer insisted that his client had nothing to do with the murder and in the end, because of this lack of evidence, Worrell was never charged. A year later, after enduring a fruitless witch hunt at the hands of his fellow officers, Worrell left the force. The Bowman murder remained on the shelf, growing colder by the day.
Now, thirty years after the worst night of her life, Nikki Bowman is a police officer herself. She works for the Manassas Police Department and like anyone who’s early life was defined by a tragic mystery, she still wants answers. Recently, she spoke to the FBI about her father’s memory and how it inspired her to pursue a career in law enforcement.
“Thirty-four years is a long time of waiting,” says Nikki Bowman, speaking about the person who killed her father. “My life is a constant struggle. Every day is hard, and I think it’s time for the roles to be reversed. Their life should be hard. You need to own up to what you’ve done. I should be able to live happily after this but I can’t do that without answers.”
The reason for Nikki Bowman’s current plethora of FBI videos on the subject is due to the fact that the FBI, a longstanding presence in the case, has put out a $50,000 reward for any info that leads to a break in the case. This is chiefly due to the fact that the Bowman murder is the only unsolved trooper killing in Virginia’s history.
Deserving of Answers
Nikki Bowman said she hopes that the public will eventually help solve the cold case by speaking up. It’s the whole reason she has agreed to do these FBI videos in the first place. She wants her voice out there. “I’m speaking for myself, but I’m also speaking for my dad. Both of us deserve answers,” she explained.
Advocate for Her Dad
Though Nikki isn’t officially part of the investigative team, she has done her own investigating over the years. She also says that she will continue to, as she puts it, “advocate the case” in the meantime. Nikki finds it hard to believe that there is no single person out there who knows what really happened that day.
First Sergeant Michael B. Elliot of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation recently spoke to Fox News about the case as well. “This push for information is nationwide. With as much time that has passed, people have potentially moved to other parts of the country. If they have the knowledge, I hope they will do the right thing and come forward.”
Officer Nikki Bowman isn’t letting the nonexistent breaks in the case get to her, however. She remains ever hopeful that someone will come forward to finally speak up. “I’m thankful to everybody that’s still pursuing the case and taking time to continue investigating, continue following leads, trying to find more leads,” Nikki says.
Asking for Help
“The public is our best weapon in solving this cold case and we are hoping that with the passage of time, and through a significant reward of $50,000, someone with information no matter how small or large will come forward and help us bring closure to the family and justice to Trooper Bowman,” added Special Agent Matthew J. DeSarno.
Police Captain Greg Kincaid, a friend of the family, also spoke up about the long wait the family has experienced hoping for closure. “For 34 years, Trooper Johnny Bowman’s daughter, parents, brother, friends, and colleagues have had to endure his loss and not knowing who was responsible for taking his life.” He added that the VA police are still working the case on behalf of their fallen colleague.
Thus far, the FBI is no closer to finding out who killed John Bowman than they were in 1984, but they are hoping the $50k reward will be enough to sweeten the pot for some holdouts. Law enforcement agencies are asking anyone with information about this crime to call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or the Virginia State Police at 703-803-2676.