NEW YORK – A man who pleaded guilty to murder in the beheading of his pregnant girlfriend on a New York City rooftop in 1989 was sentenced Friday to 18 years to life in prison.
Philip Ward apologized tearfully for killing Veronica Bowen, who was six weeks pregnant. The 46-year-old Ward, who pleaded guilty on March 22, is already in prison for killing the woman who became his girlfriend after Bowen's death. The sentences will run consecutively.
Bowen's naked, headless body was found on the rooftop of an upper Manhattan apartment building. Her head was never found. Prosecutors lacked enough evidence to charge Ward at the time of the crime, but he confessed to it last year.
Ward's attorney, Frank Rothman, said the confession was spurred by a desire to build a better relationship with his and Bowen's two children.
Bowen's sister Kimberly said at the sentencing that Bowen loved being a mother, adored her kids and was deeply in love with Ward, whom she trusted until the end.
"I am haunted by thoughts of what she must have felt in her last moments," she told the judge. "I wish I could hug her again, talk to her, hear her voice and see her lovely face. She was my best friend. To die is one thing, but to die like that is the worst thing I can think of; it's inhuman."
Bowen was 21 when she disappeared in February 1989. She and Ward had met as teenagers at a group foster home and developed a relationship marred by domestic violence, Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Lederer said. She had recently moved out of the apartment they shared. Their two children, David and Jessica, were living with Ward, and she had gone to visit them the night she was killed.
Ward said he was jealous because he believed the child she was carrying wasn't his, but Bowen believed it was his, Lederer said.
Ward lured her to the building's roof overlooking the Hudson River where they first had sex, and then he beat her with a pipe, stabbed her with a dagger and ultimately cut off her head with a kitchen knife, Lederer said. Bowen cried out "I'm sorry!" as Ward beat her, the prosecutor said.
Ward told investigators during his confession that he buried Bowen's head in Riverside Park, but when cold-case detectives took him there last spring, 24 years after the killing, they could not find it, Lederer said.
After Bowen's death, Ward moved on to another relationship that ended in violence. He admitted in 1994 to fatally shooting another girlfriend, caterer Sheila Jackson, in front of her 11-year-old daughter at the home they all shared in a New York suburb. He then raped the child, Lederer said. He was sentenced to 20 years to life in that case.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said the case was solved by cold case-units "whose persistence and dedication to seeking justice for the victim and her family" led to the conviction and sentencing.