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The Joys of Art

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I bet this story has even Mayor Nagin Scared....It's terror time again New Orleans....

Killer's suicide note leads cops to grisly scene

By Walt Philbin, Steve Ritea and Trymaine Lee
Staff writers

Zackery Bowen walked up the ledge, looked over, then turned around and walked back.

A surveillance camera trained on the eighth floor at the poolside bar in the Omni Royal Orleans caught Bowen, 28, repeating the action, over and over, apparently hesitating as he prepared for one final, horrific act.

His descent into darkness began more than two weeks ago, police and associates said, when he murdered his girlfriend, 30-year-old Adriane “Addie” Hall, strangling her in their one-bedroom apartment over a French Quarter voodoo shop. Bowen killed his girlfriend of more than a year without a tinge of remorse, according to a suicide note he carried in his right front pocket, in a plastic bag, for police to find on his corpse.

Bowen left a second, rambling letter in the couple’s apartment, a graphic narrative scrawled of the his murder and descretion of Hall’s body, scrawled on eight small pages of his girlfriend’s journal. That letter, along with interviews with police investigators and the couple’s friends and co-workers in the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny, tell a sordid tale of extreme highs and lows, starting with a Katrina-inspired love affair and ending in among the most gruesome slayings in the city’s history.
In the letter, Bowen confessed that for almost two weeks after the killing he continued to live with the corpse of the woman who had repeatedly proclaimed her love for him. In those final days, driven by an accelerating madness, underpinned by unrelenting fury and self-loathing, he dismembered her corpse — baking her limbs in the oven and cooking her head in a pot on the stove, police said — until he decided to methodically end his own life.

Bowen had planned every detail before heading to the hotel bar Tuesday night, except, perhaps, for the hestitation he faced on the ledge. The hotel security tape, described in an interview with police sources, shows him struggling to muscle up the courage.

Up to the railing, then back. Up again, then back.

Just before 8:30 p.m., he did it, leaping to his death on the street down below.

“I just find it so hard to believe,” said Caryn Lott, owner of Buffa’s, the French Quarter outpost where he had tended bar. “I’d be willing to bet it was something in his past...something that was underneath. I just don’t think we looked far enough.”

Life as bartenders

Much of Bowen’s past remains a mystery, only known by the painful details he leaked out to his friends in New Orleans. He ends the letter with a list of his “failures — school, jobs, military, marriage, parenthood, morals, love.”

“Every last one of these I failed at,” he wrote. “Hence the 28 cigarette burns” — 13 on each arm two on his chest — one for each year of my existance (sic).”

Friends said he grew up in Los Angeles, but the details that drove him to inflict those burns into his flesh are few.

Before meeting Hall, he had been married and had two children, a girl and a boy, said Louis Matassa, who later hired Bowen to make deliveries for his French Quarter grocery.

Lott recalled how Bowen claimed he had served in the military. Efforts to confirm his military service were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Though typically gregarious, Bowen’s demeanor took a dive when he talked about that part of his life, often after several rounds of Miller High Life and shots of Jameson Irish Whiskey, his drinks of choice. He would grow angry and distraught, Lott said, talking of how the government “messed him over,” referring to his military service, which he told friends included stints in Iraq and Bosnia.

While he sometimes spoke of that service with pride, somewhere overseas there had been an incident concerning a child that weighed heavy on him, said Donovan Calabaza, another bartender at Buffa’s, “but we really didn’t get into it.”

Lott didn’t like it when he talked about the military.

“How ‘bout them Saints?” Lott would say, trying to move him onto a lighter topic.

Hall’s life carried its own burdens. Friends said she grew up in Pennsylvania, though they had few other details of her past. Calabaza said he and Hall occasionally shared details about their similar childhood traumas.

She and Bowen fell in love the night Hurricane Katrina struck, said former mayoral candidate Leo Watermeier, who would later rent them their last apartment on N. Rampart Street, relaying the story they told him.

Blond and petite, Hall harbored an intense attraction to Bowen, a tall, strapping man with a magnetic personality. Lott said she hired him as “a little eye candy for the ladies.” They visited each other at the bars where each of them worked — she visiting him at Buffa’s, he visiting her at The Spotted Cat in the Faubourg Marigny.

Sometimes he took advantage of his looks at her expense, associates who knew the couple said, flirting or even making out with other women. Their relationship veered between highs and lows, but “she loved that guy,” said Eura Jones, who worked with Hall at The Spotted Cat. “She really loved him.”

When the blaring music at Buffa’s drowned out their conversation, they wrote love notes to each other, Calabaza said.

Would not leave Quarter

In the weeks after the storm, they became French Quarter icons, some of the last holdouts who resisted calls from the mayor and the military to leave the city. They peacefully resisted, inventing a new brand of post-disaster bohemianism.

They became inventors by necessity, fashioning a fly swatter from a pair of plastic plates taped onto a wire hanger. He fashioned a stove of sorts out of a metal bucket packed with felled branches and covered with an old barbeque grill.

In the afternoons, they sat on the stoop of their powerless Gov. Nicholls Street apartment, getting their news from neighbors and passers-by, often offering them cocktails. Bowen usually went shirtless in those humid weeks after the storm. Hall wore a tank top, lovingly stroking stray cats that sauntered up to where she and Bowen sat, sharing cigarettes.

“It’s actually been kind of nice,” Bowen said in those first weeks after the storm. “And I’m getting healthier, eating right and toning up.”

“We’ve been able to see the stars for the first time,” Hall said. “Before, this was a 24-hour lit city. Now it’s peaceful.”

Both working as bartenders at the time, Hall and Bowen were flush with booze and beer, sometimes trading it for water and ice when they couldn’t get enough from the Salvation Army. They got a three months’ supply of food, mostly canned, when a local grocer opened his doors and invited people to peacefully take what they want, rather than face the destruction caused by looters.

Hall devised a provocative way to lure police protection to their neighborhood. The New York Times described her habit of flashing her breasts at passing police cars to make sure their house got routine patrols.

But as the year wore on and life began to stabilize in New Orleans, their relationship began to fall apart.

Several months ago, Hall failed to show up for work — distraught by a brief breakup with Bowen. He also disappeared from his jobs at Buffa’s and making deliveries for Matassa’s. They would reuinite, but only for a time, friends said, before his downward spiral into madness took hold.

“It was a revolving door,” said Lisa Perilloux, a regular at Buffa’s.

One night in particular, she was seen screaming at him from Buffa’s doorway as he stood in the street, Perilloux said.

“He was getting rid of her,” Perilloux said, who said she never heard him say anything nice about Hall.

While Bowen struggled with his own demons, Hall had her own moments of instability. Friends describe her as having at-times a frightening mean streak. She was arrested on Aug. 14 after pulling a gun on a man at a French Quarter corner early in the morning. According to the police report, Hall pointed a “blue steel” handgun at the man and said, “What the (expletive) is wrong with you?”

As the man called the police, Hall ran to her apartment on Gov. Nicholls, where officers found her changed out of blue jeans and T-shirt and into a nightgown. At the apartment, officers found the gun, along with a bag of what police believed to be marijuana and two pipes. The man identified Hall as the woman who pulled a gun on him, according to the police reports.

Hall was booked with aggravated assault with a firearm, first offense possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The morning of Sept. 28, police again arrived at the Gov. Nicholls apartment, responding to a call about a disturbance, according to a police report. They found Bowen on the stoop of the apartment. Upon spotting the officers, Bowen got up and dropped an object that turned out to be a clear plastic bag of marijuana, according to the report. He was booked with first offense possession of marijuana.

Looking for a home

Even as they were falling apart as a couple, Jones said they faced more stress when they were evicted from the Gov. Nicholls apartment around the time of Bowen’s arrest. Hall also disappeared permanently from her job at The Spotted Cat around that time.

“I had a feeling something was seriously wrong,” said Ed Parrish, The Spotted Cat’s co-owner.

Around Oct. 1, they rented an apartment from Watermeier at 826 N. Rampart Street, above the Voodoo Spiritual Temple and Cultural Center.

But a few days later, they were fighting again — this time over which of their names would appear on the lease. Hall told Watermeier she was going to kick Bowen out. He had been cheating on her, Watermeier said, and she had not had enough.

No one ever saw her again.

On Oct. 6, a day after Bowen said he killed Hall, he wrote in his confession that he was “posed with the question of how to dispose of the corpse,” he wrote.

He continued that he passed out after drinking, went to work at Matassa’s, all day long devising a plan that involved cooking her body.

It was during the days of methodically dismembering her body that Bowen said he decided to kill himself after one final blowout — “spend(ing) the $1,500 I had being happy until I killed myself...So that’s what I did: good food, good drugs, good strippers, good friends and any loose ends I may have had...And had a fantastic time living out my days.”

Voodoo Priestess Miriam Chamani, who runs the center, said she last saw Bowen Saturday morning as he was walking back into the apartment.

Last Sunday, Bowen appeared “all jolly,” Preilloux said, as he quaffed beer and shot Irish whiskey at Buffa’s.

“He was (in) a great mood, best mood I’ve ever seen him in,” she said.

Calabaza quoted him saying he would take a “much-needed vacation” — to Cozumel or some other island resort.

Two nights before Bowen lept to his death, Kalabaza recalled telling Bowen:

“Just think, tomorrow night, you’ll be in paradise.”

Steve Ritea can be reached at sritea@timespicayune.com or by calling (504) 826-3396. Trymaine Lee can be reached at tlee@timespicayune.com or by calling (504) 826-3301. Staff writer Laura Maggi contributed to this report.


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