Lester Leroy Bower
Who was Lester Leroy Bower, Did he do it?
There are a lot of interesting people in the world, some of which you might give your eye teeth to converse with for just five minutes ...and then there are some with whom you hope and pray to never cross paths. In the case of Lester Leroy Bower, America isn't sure whether he is guilty of a heinous crime or a victim of a faulty judicial system. What do you think?
Lester Leroy Brown, the Man Everyone is Talking About
It was the summer of 1983, July to be exact, when Bower moved from Colorado to Arlington, Texas, with his wife, Shari, and two daughters. An active outdoorsman, Bower was an avid bow hunter, white water rafter and licensed firearms dealer who often designed and sewed tents and sleeping bags while living in Colorado. However, when he moved to Texas, Bower was forced to look for new hobbies and activities in the Arlington area. It was at this time that he discovered a new love, ultralight aircraft flying.
Just as many other women might have reacted, Shari was not happy with her husband's new hobby. Shari put her foot down in the matter, telling Bower "absolutely not", as an ultralight aircraft propelled by a motor the size of a lawnmower engine just didn't seem strong enough to carry her 250 pound husband through the air. Her headstrong husband decided to pursue the hobby anyway, planning to build his own ultralight aircraft based on the research he found until he came across a classified ad in Grayson County.
The advertiser, Philip Good, had listed his untralight for $4500 and it was roughly 83 miles north of where Bower and his family resided. Over the course of three telephone calls, the two arranged to meet on October 8, 1983, at B&B Ranch to see the aircraft, owned by Bob Tate. For obvious reasons, Bower thought it would be best not to tell his wife about the used aircraft he was thinking of buying. Instead, he used an excuse quite popular among married men when they need to slip away: he was going hunting.
By afternoon, Bower was on his way to B&B Ranch, excited about the aircraft and the possibilities his new hobby would bring. He met with Tate, Good and a third man by the name of Jerry Brown where a deal was struck and the aircraft was loaded into his Scout. With $3000 down and a handwritten agreement on the business card where he was employed to pay another $1500 later. Happy to have made a deal, Bower happily headed home, later insisting the three men were very much alive when he drove away.
Bower: Bad Luck or Bad Seed?
When Bob Tate never returned home, his wife called the police. At the trial which was held in April of 1984, she would testify that she went to the ranch and found the hangar locked. When she unlocked the door, she found Ronald Mayes, her husband's friend, dead inside the building and quickly called the police. Local police arrived to find a total of four men dead inside, the first of which was Mayes, found near the entrance with five bullet wounds. Further inside were the bodies of Good, Tate and Brown, each of which had been shot in the head two times, execution style. The killer had laid their bodies out, side by side, covering them with carpet. Bob Tate's ultralight aircraft was presumed missing.
Lies and Damning Evidence against Bower
In the midst of the dead mens' bodies, eleven shell casings from a rare and exotic brand of .22 ammunition was found. It is unclear as to why the FBI was called in to help with the murder investigation but both the organization and the Texas Rangers began to search for leads, discovering several phone calls were placed by Bowers to Philip Good. When questioned, Bower admitted to speaking with Good but lied, stating he never went to the hangar at B&B Ranch and stated he knew nothing about the missing aircraft or the murders.
Why did Bower lie to the authorities? Shari believes her husband lied because he was afraid ...and upset because he had no idea what had happened to the men after he left the hangar. He was also worried that he might have been seen by the killers and feared for the safety of his family. When asked later to explain why he failed to tell the truth, Bower had this to say:
"If I came forward, what might happen about the safety of my family? Then, of course, I had not exactly been truthful with my wife, so there was a level of embarrassment there, family-wise. And once you kind of start a lie, it just kind of grows and it rolls along. It just consumed me."
On Jan. 20, 1984, Lester Leroy Bower was arrested for the deaths of the men, equaling four counts of capital murder, when pieces of the missing ultralight were discovered by police in a subsequent search of his home. Other evidence linking Bower to the murders was found, the same type of rare Italian-made Fiocchi ammunition shell casings that had been found at the murder scene. These two discoveries would lead to his conviction of all four murders but another question plagued police. If Bower purchased the ultralight aircraft, where was the $3000 down payment which had never been found? Interestingly enough, the business card was found among Tate's things and later lost.
Lester Leroy Bower on Death Row: Guilty or Innocent
During his fifth year on death row, Bower's new defense team began to see how much of the facts were unknown regarding the state's case against the client. Many of his 26 lawyers now believe the state withheld vital information regarding the case, including Bower's defense attorney in the original trial who was currently a Texas judge. New evidence suggests the defense grossly built up the rareness of the Fiocchi ammunition and the prosecution hid leads that the murders were connected to area drug trafficking.
Also detrimental to the case was tips regarding Tate's alleged involvement with cocaine trafficking prior to 1984, which was not investigated and the admission of an unknown lady named Pearl in 1989 that she knew the murderer was not Bower but rather her boyfriend and his buddies in a drug deal that had gone bad. One of the men she mentioned in her story owned a .22 pistol and used the "rare" Fiocchi ammunition. Another woman associated with the men corroborated with Pearl's story but the defense ignored these facts.
Bower, who took the advice of his attorney and never took the witness stand in his original trial, was executed on June 4, 2015, at 6:49 a.m. after serving thirty-one years, becoming Texas's oldest and longest serving death row inmate. A lower court had agreed to grant the 67 year old inmate a new hearing, but state and federal appeals courts disagreed and the high court decided to look the other way Wednesday as he was executed by a lethal injection of pentobarbital, ignoring rumors of prosecutorial misconduct in the Bower case. He was the eighth inmate executed by Texas this year.
Weaknesses in the Lester Bower Case
Bower's case has obvious flaws and upon reading his story, you are not alone if you get an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach: something just isn't right about this case. There are more interesting facts to consider as you mull over the facts. Were FBI agents called in because of area drug trafficking or was it because, of the four men executed in the hangar, Good was a sheriff's deputy and Mayes was formerly a police officer.
Were local police trying to hide the sins of one of their own? Could it be that the FBI was hoping to protect a drug trafficking case and Bower was nothing more than the fall guy? Why else would the defense build up the rarity of the the .22 Fiocchi ammunition when it was in fact a common choice for target practicing and small game hunting among many outdoorsmen? Perhaps Pearl's boyfriend, or one of his friends, was an informant for the police and Bower was needed to protect their lead man?
While we speculate and wonder, it is likely that the truth may never come to surface. If he truly was innocent, Bower will never see the justice he deserves in this capital murder case. His wife, Shari, still believes in her husband's innocence and there are many who will agree.
Was Lester Leroy Bower guilty or wrongfully accused? Was the prosecution sloppy and anxious for a verdict?
- Related: here are 3 women on death row stories...
- Frances Elaine Newton