Suspect in Scott City murder won VFW contest

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The essay that won first place in last year's VFW Voice of Democracy essay contest in Scott City is titled "My Role in Honoring America's Veterans."

Its author -- 18-year-old Marcus A. Bowers of Scott City -- was charged Thursday with murdering 45-year-old Stanley Frank Hagan of Kelso, Mo., a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

"Have you ever thought about what it would be like staring into the eyes of someone who wanted to kill you, or hearing bombs exploding not knowing if the next one will hit you?" the essay begins. "In the United States of America approximately twenty-five million people have done that and more for our freedom in the wars involving our country. We should celebrate the history of Veteran's Day and realize the importance of honoring our veterans."

Bowers was indicted by a grand jury for first-degree murder and armed criminal action for an incident that took place Sept. 23. Police and prosecutors in Scott County say Bowers pushed Hagan's head into a mobile home tie-down stake. Hagan died from his injuries five days later.

Scott City police initially reported the death as an accident but later started investigating it as a murder. The investigation was kept secret to keep from tipping off Bowers and to protect witnesses, Scott City police chief Don Cobb said Thursday.

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 was arrested Dec. 11 on charges of sexual molestation stemming from an alleged sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl.

Another source who asked for anonymity said he had personal knowledge that Bowers had some behavior problems before the alleged murder and before the molestation charges. The source said he was surprised at the severity of the crime Bowers is being charged with.

Bowers' father Mark said his son had "been a good kid" and made A's and B's in his classes. He said he didn't have a description of what happened on Sept. 23 and declined to comment further.

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.

"But I'm his grandmother, so you have to take that into account," Wanda Bowers added. She declined to comment further.

Josh Zyduck of Scott City, a 2002 graduate of Scott City High School, said he knew Bowers through his younger brother, who is around Bowers' age. He said Bowers didn't seem like the kind of person who could commit murder.

"I heard of him being in some trouble, but it was just stupid little stuff," Zyduck said.

The only previous charge against Bowers in adult court was a March misdemeanor for attempting to purchase tobacco. Bowers pleaded guilty and paid a fine in July.

Page one of Marcus Bowers' essay.

Page two of Marcus Bowers' essay

335-6611, extension 182

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