Teen Who Won 'Honoring Veterans' Essay Contest Now Accused of Killing Air Force Vet

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A teenager who won a VFW contest with an essay titled "My Role in Honoring America's Veterans" has been accused of killing an Air Force veteran.

Marcus Bowers, 18, was indicted Thursday on a charge of first-degree murder in the September death of Stanley Hagan, 45.

Police say Bowers slammed Hagan's head into a tie-down stake outside Hagan's mobile home in Scott County. Investigators would not comment on a possible motive in the slaying.

Bowers, of Scott City in southeast Missouri, won the Scott City VFW post's Voice of Democracy essay contest and was honored in a ceremony at Scott City High School on Veterans Day — nearly two months after Hagan was killed.

"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."

Hagan's death was initially beleved to be accidental. However, police became suspicious and said they kept the murder investigation a secret, in part to avoid tipping Bowers and to protect witnesses.

Nancy Caldwell oversaw the judging for the VFW and said students were excited to see Bowers win. She said a teacher told her Bowers had a troubled past and his peers were excited that he was "trying to make a turnaround."

When Bowers read his essay at the ceremony, he "got almost a standing ovation," Caldwell said.

But Bowers was arrested Dec. 11 and accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl. He stopped attending school before the semester ended in December, principal Kerry Thompson said.

Bowers' father, Mark Bowers, said his son had "been a good kid" and made As and Bs in his classes. He declined to comment on the charges. Bail was set at $250,000.