A short time after 18-year-old Marcus A. Bowers of Scott City allegedly murdered 45-year-old Stanley Frank Hagan in a Scott City trailer park, he was awarded for his patriotic writing by the local VFW post.
Bowers was the 2007 winner of the Scott City VFW post's Voice of Democracy essay contest. High school students write essays about patriotism and submit them to the VFW. Bowers won the Scott City contest but didn't place on the district level, said Joe Bles, commander of the Kelso Township VFW based in Scott City.
Bles called Bowers "very intelligent," based on the essay he submitted.
Bowers was presented with his award in a Veterans Day ceremony at the high school.
Nancy Caldwell oversaw the judging of the entries and said the high school students were excited to see Bowers win the prize.
Caldwell said a teacher had told her it was well-known at school that Bowers had a troubled past but that his peers were excited that he was "trying to make a turnaround."
When Bowers read his essay at the ceremony, Caldwell said, he "got almost a standing ovation."
"The kids were thrilled he was doing well," Caldwell said.
Bowers was a student at Scott City High School but stopped coming to school before the last semester ended in December, said high school principal Kerry Thompson.
Bowers' father Mark said his son had "been a good kid" and made A's and B's in his classes.
His grandmother, Wanda Bowers, said "Marcus didn't do what they said he did," speaking about her grandson's murder charge and a molestation charge filed against him in December alleging he had sex with a 14-year-old girl.
"But I'm his grandmother, so you have to take that into account," Wanda Bowers added.