Shortly after the man who killed her sister 44 years ago was executed, Leslie James took to a podium at the Arizona state prison complex in Florence and tearfully told the world what Clarence Dixon had taken.
James, the older sister and only brother of Deana Bowdoin, spoke about the young woman who was about to drop out of college for what was sure to be a bright future.
Dixon took it from her, raping and strangling 21-year-old Deana Bowdoin on Jan. 7, 1978, at her apartment near the main campus of Arizona State University in Tempe, a Phoenix suburb. She was one semester away from graduating.
Dixon died Wednesday in Arizona’s first execution in nearly eight years and the nation’s sixth this year. At 66 and nearly blind, he had been in prison for most of his adult life: first sentenced to life in prison for the 1985 rape of a Northern Arizona University student, then sentenced to death when DNA evidence re-examined by cold case detectives in 2001 linked it inextricably to the Bowdoin rape and murder. He was convicted in 2008.
James noted that it took the jurors just 17 minutes to deliver their verdict.
It took “a long, long, long time” for justice to be served in the case, James said. But he mainly focused on his sister, whom he called kind and hard-working.
“She wrote incredible poetry,” James said. “The older people and the dogs really seemed to love her and I think that has to say something about her character.”
As a child, Bowdoin had an illness that caused her to miss much of the school year. But James said she worked hard to catch up with the help of her schoolteacher mother.
In college, she had grown into a bright and outgoing young woman. Bowdoin was multilingual and studied abroad in Mexico and Spain. The summer before she was killed, the two sisters spent three months traveling by train across Europe, and she said Deana made friends along the way.
James, two years older than Deana, said his sister was more affable and friendly than her, “the one who was supposed to have an exciting career, get married and have grandchildren for my mom. But it didn’t work that way.
“We should have been able to grow old together,” she continued, wiping her eyes with a tissue.
Dixon’s lawyers argued that he was too delusional to understand why he was being executed. They said that he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia on multiple occasions, he experienced hallucinations in the last 30 years and should not be executed. The courts repeatedly rejected the appeals.
As the deadly drugs flowed, he again denied killing Bowdoin and blamed the Arizona Supreme Court for not overturning his conviction.
James said DNA tests conducted at the request of Bowdoin’s attorneys proved otherwise.
“There was never any question that this inmate murdered my sister.”
James also criticized reporters, saying he had seen a shift in recent years from compassion and recognition of victims’ rights to advocacy for violent offenders and what he called political posturing.
But she mainly wanted people to remember her sister.
“I wish they had met her,” James told reporters. “I just have one request for you. All my mother wanted was for people to remember Deana. Please remember Deana Lynne Bowdoin.”