Second Lansdowne attacker sentenced to 43 years in prison
The second defendant in the grisly Lansdowne attack that left one dead and his wife clinging to life has been sentenced to spend 43 years and five months in prison.
After a four hour sentencing hearing, Judge Thomas Horne sentenced Darwin Giovany Bowman, now 22, to life in prison with all but 43 years and five months suspended for his role in the murder of William Bennett and the brutal assault of Cynthia Bennett.
“What did you do when you looked into the face of evil? Nothing,” Horne said to Bowman. “This has terrible consequences. This family will never be the same.”
The attack took place in the early morning on March 22, 2009, in Lansdowne. The Bennetts were taking an early morning walk on Riverside Parkway when they were attacked near the intersection of Rocky Creek Drive.
Police found William Bennett's body near the side of the road, his skull fractured from ear to ear. Autopsy reports indicate he died from blunt force trauma.
Cynthia Bennett was found nearly 15 minutes later, clinging to life. She spent several months in the hospital recovering from injuries suffered during the beating.
On June 20, after nearly four years of motions and pre-trial hearings, Bowman pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and aggravated malicious wounding. Bowman faced a slew of other charges from the assault, including robbery, rape and object sexual penetration but under the terms of his plea agreement, the Commonwealth Attorney's Office will not pursue the other indictments.
Additionally, the plea agreement stipulates that Bowman will cooperate with police regarding the investigation of Anthony Rumont Roberts. Roberts is suspected to be the ringleader of the Bennett attack, though he has yet to be charged in the case. He is currently incarcerated for a series of break-ins in Middleburg and at Loudoun Guns in Leesburg.
Both of the Bennetts' daughters were in court for the sentencing hearing to make impact statements.
“My mother lost a long-term companion, lover and a friend and my sister and I lost a mentor and a father,” said Jennifer Bennett, the eldest daughter.
Samantha Bennett spoke about how she found her mother sobbing and shaking earlier this week at the prospect of facing her attacker again. Cynthia Bennett chose not to attend the hearing.
“I really hate having to live through this over and over again. It's so frustrating and tiring,” Samantha Bennett said. “We'll never forget this. It's every day.”
The brunt of the sentencing featured six witnesses from the defense.
The defense first spoke with Dunia Bowman, Darwin Bowman's mother.
Dunia Bowman gave a harrowing account of her son's early life. Dunia Bowman was raped by the human smuggler that helped her into the United States from Guatemala. She became pregnant with Darwin Bowman and was subsequently forced to live with the coyote for the next four years. She stated he was abusive to both her and her son. When Darwin Bowman was 4 years old, she tried to escape, but he kidnapped the boy and held him ransom, eventually surrendering the child for $2,000.
The mother and son eventually moved in with Albert Bowman in Fairfax. In Fairfax, Darwin Bowman had some support from the mothers of friends, but in middle school was uprooted to Sterling, which began a downward spiral. Darwin Bowman ultimately joined the 18th Street Gang and spent much of his high school years incarcerated in juvenile facilities.
Other witnesses included Darwin Bowman's sister, girlfriend and a former teacher at Douglass School in Leesburg.
“We should have had a safety net for Darwin,” Pat Thomas, Darwin Bowman's former teacher said. “We should have done more.”
The final two witnesses were Thomas W. Ward, an anthropologist from the University of Southern California and an expert on street gangs and Jeffrey Aaron, a forensic and clinical psychologist who conducted multiple interviews with Darwin Bowman, as well as interviews with Darwin Bowman's friends and family.
“I think [Darwin's life] could have gone either way,” Aaron said. “And some of it is Darwin's fault and some of it is lack of resources. He suffered from multiple traumas, frightening stimuli and not a nurturing environment.”
Just before being sentenced, Bowman himself spoke to the court.
“With all my heart and everything inside me, I'm sorry for what I've done,” Bowman said through sobs. “To Cynthia Bennett: I'm sorry that I hurt you. And I'm sorry that I'm the reason your husband is not here today.”
Darwin Bowman is the second individual sentenced for his role in the attack. In 2011, Judge James Chamblin sentenced Jaime Ayala, who is believed to have driven the vehicle to the attack, to life in prison plus 40 years for second-degree murder and aggravated malicious wounding. Though the sentencing guidelines recommended for Ayala's charges were 16-37 years, no sentencing deal was worked out prior to the plea agreement.
Though Ayala was sentenced in 2011, his order was stayed and he is currently still at the Loudoun Adult Detention Center. Plowman indicated that the commonwealth will revisit Ayala's sentencing.
“There's got to be some equity,” Plowman said.
Plowman also said that he expects Roberts will be indicted in the coming weeks or months.