NEW ORLEANS – After Hurricane Katrina, Zackery Bowen and his girlfriend Adriane Hall appeared in news stories as examples of young people who had pressed on in the battered city despite evacuation orders and a lack of power and water.
On Wednesday they were in the news again, though this time nothing about their story was inspiring: Bowen had leapt to his death from a hotel, leaving a note that led police to a French Quarter apartment where they found a woman's charred head, torso, legs and arms in a bag in the refrigerator.
Bowen's note said he had strangled and dismembered his girlfriend, but did not mention her name, police said Wednesday. Authorities said that because of the condition of the dismembered woman's body they could not identify her. They were looking for Hall, however.
The body was found late Tuesday in the second-floor apartment that Bowen and Hall had shared above a voodoo shop, according to the landlord.
A woman who identified herself as Priestess Miriam Chamani in the Voodoo Spiritual Temple and Cultural Center below the apartment said the couple had recently moved in.
"You never know what's going on in people's minds," she said, incense wafting onto the sidewalk from her shop.
The apartment's owner, Leo Watermeier, said he last saw Hall on Oct. 5, four days after the couple put down a deposit on the one-bedroom, $750-a month apartment. Later that day, Watermeier said, Bowen called him, angrily saying the woman was kicking him out.
Watermeier said Hall told him she had caught the boyfriend cheating.
The motive appeared to be a dispute over rent, police spokesman and chief of detectives Anthony Cannatella said. It indicated Bowen strangled the woman after an argument and cut up her body with a hand saw and knife, according to police.
"He took his life to compensate for the life he had taken," Cannatella said.
The note, Cannatella said, indicated the woman was killed early in the morning of Oct. 5, in apparent conflict with the landlord's account of seeing them that day.
A story published by Newhouse News Service last year described the couple gathering tree limbs for cooking fires and trading alcohol — easy to get because of their jobs as bartenders — for clean water.
They also found a creative way to make sure police kept patrolling their home: a story in The New York Times included her flashing her breasts at officers to make sure they drove by.
"We've been able to see the stars for the first time," Hall told Newhouse after the storm last year. "Before, this was a 24-hour lit city. Now it's peaceful."
Holly Jacker, who tended bar with Bowen, said he was outgoing and a hit with the ladies.
"Women loved him," she said Wednesday night, over the din of music in at Buffa's, the dimly lit bar. "He was gorgeous, charming, a big fat flirt."
Det. Ronald Ruiz said police hoped to make a positive ID of the body, using DNA or dental records, sometime next week. He said police estimated the dismembered woman was in her mid to late-20s.
Joy Spaulding, who works at the nearby Nawlin's Flava cafe, said she occasionally saw Hall and Bowen. "To be honest, they seemed like a real nice couple. They were good-looking people, young people trying to do something with their lives."