Trial opens in killing of 16-year-old

15-year-old is charged as an adult for his al­leged role in death of Ar­ne­sha Bow­ers

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Justin Fen­ton jfen­ton@balt­

The de­fense at­tor­ney for a 15-year-old boy charged with tak­ing part in the bur­glary-gone-wrong killing of a 16-yearold girl told ju­rors Tues­day that her client was “not a will­ing par­tic­i­pant.”

Rae­shawn Rivers is charged as an adult for his al­leged role in the June 2015 killing of Ar­ne­sha Bow­ers, a City Col­lege stu­dent. Prose­cu­tors say Rivers and two men de­cided to bur­glar­ize Bow­ers’ home. When she dis­cov­ered the crime in progress, she was blud­geoned with a meat ten­der­izer, raped, stran­gled and set on fire.

Two co-de­fen­dants, Adonay Dixon, 24, and John Childs, 22, pleaded guilty last week. Dixon, who prose­cu­tors say con­ceived the plot, is ex­pected to tes­tify for the state.

Roya Hanna, Rivers’ de­fense at­tor­ney, said her client “wit­nessed un­speak­able events” but did not play a will­ing role. In her open­ing state­ment, she said Rivers and Bow­ers had been dat­ing and en­joyed each other’s com­pany.

Em­pha­siz­ing his age — Rivers was 14 at the time of the killing — and the older ages of his co-de­fen­dants, Hanna said: “There was noth­ing he could’ve done to pro­tect Ar­ne­sha. This is a girl he cared about, and he had to wit­ness hor­ri­ble things Adonay Dixon and John Childs did.”

Rivers is charged with first-de­gree mur­der, con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der, rape, kid­nap­ping, ar­son, bur­glary and armed rob­bery. In De­cem­ber, a judge or­dered Rivers to be tried as an adult, call­ing the killing a “cal­cu­lated crime.” Rivers’ pre­vi­ous at­tor­ney had ar­gued then that Rivers was a child who was ma­nip­u­lated.

“There are just some crimes that can­not be mit­i­gated in the ju­ve­nile court,” a prose­cu­tor said at the time.

Prior to open­ing state­ments Tues­day, Cir­cuit Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill warned ju­rors they were about to hear a “hor­ri­ble” case with ev­i­dence that would be graphic and dif­fi­cult to view.

As­sis­tant State’s At­tor­ney Sharon Hol­back said Bow­ers was “fas­ci­nated” with Rivers, whom she ini­tially be­lieved to be 19, and of­ten vis­ited a home where he was stay­ing in North­east Baltimore. Rivers did not share her feel­ings, and on the night of her death agreed with Dixon and Childs to se­duce her up­stairs while they looted the rest of the home, Hol­back said.

Bow­ers heard a com­mo­tion down­stairs while the bur­glary was tak­ing place. Hol­back said Dixon will tes­tify that Bow­ers was sur­prised to see the men in the home but “was so kind, she fixed him a plate of food.”

Nev­er­the­less, Dixon grabbed her in a bear hug and handed the meat ten­der­izer to Childs, who struck her mul­ti­ple times over the head as she pleaded with them to stop, Hol­back said.

Hol­back said Dixon will tes­tify that Rivers was ini­tially shocked be­cause it “wasn’t what they planned.”

But “he sat there and watched them kill her” and “did ab­so­lutely noth­ing.” “This was a group event,” Hol­back said. Bow­ers was raped, stran­gled with a cord, and her home and her body were set on fire, Hol­back said. Her dog also died in the fire. The next day, Rivers used his thumbprint ac­cess to Bow­ers’ iPhone to send a text mes­sage pur­port­edly from Bow­ers to her best friend, say­ing she was in Baltimore County with an­other male.

Hanna, Rivers’ at­tor­ney, said the two teens had a “cute, happy” re­la­tion­ship and that he had been at the home that night be­cause “he was hang­ing out with his girl­friend. He liked her, and they liked each other.”

She said Dixon, whose plea agree­ment calls for him to re­ceive 50 years in prison in ex­change for his tes­ti­mony, should be serv­ing mul­ti­ple life sen­tences but got a break to “say ex­actly what the state wants.”

Hanna told ju­rors that prose­cu­tors will have to prove that Rivers could have done some­thing to make “grown men” stop.

The first wit­ness called by the state was Rivers’ guardian, who tes­ti­fied that Rivers and Bow­ers had dated a month be­fore her death. By June, he was call­ing an­other girl his girl­friend, the woman tes­ti­fied. She also said she never saw Rivers with Dixon and did not be­lieve he hung out with Childs.

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