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VFW murder trial winding toward conclusion


Arthur “A.J.” Bowers

The defense in the murder trial against Arthur “A.J.” Bowers rested Wednesday afternoon, leaving only closing arguments before the case goes to the jury for its verdict.

Bowers, 32, is charged with murder in the 2003 murder of James Bolt, 76, at the Laurens VFW. Bolt was found bludgeoned to death on Sept. 26, 2003.

After 8th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Warren Mowry closed the prosecution’s case around noon, defense attorney Jay G. Anderson, of Murrells Inlet, was denied a directed verdict in favor of his client from Judge Donald B. Hocker, who ruled that prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence to send the trial to the jury for a verdict.

Bowers also told the court that he would not be testifying in his own defense.

Anderson’s defense focused on the testimony of Holly Manning, supervisor for records management for Pinellas County (Fla.) Schools where Bowers was enrolled until he left school in the 10th grade. Pinellas County encompasses the St. Petersburg and Clearwater areas on Florida’s Gulf Coast and has more than 110,000 students enrolled.

Manning translated codes used by Florida school systems that identify students with emotional and learning issues and said Bowers was identified early on in elementary school as being “severely emotionally disturbed,” according to notations on his transcript.

His transcript also noted learning disabilities, including reading comprehension and communication, she said.

Anderson argued during his opening statement that Bowers, then 17, did not understand what he was being asked by Laurens Police Investigators Tony Lynch and Walter Bentley interviewed him after Bolt’s murder.

After finishing elementary school, Bowers attended one of two schools within the Pinellas district specializing in students with emotional and learning difficulties.

“There’s one entrance and exit, so that students have to go out through the proper channels,” Manning said, adding that the school Bowers attended was guarded by a 10-foot-high chain-link fence.

His transcript also revealed that Bowers was an average student during elementary school, but his grades dropped dramatically along with his attendance when he changed schools in sixth grade. In ninth grade, he missed 51 days of school and then dropped out in the second semester of his sophomore year of high school.

Former SLED agent John Barron, who had reported on forensic evidence at the crime scene in 2003, failed to appear in court despite a subpoena from Anderson.

His report, which did not place Bowers at the scene with DNA evidence, was entered into evidence by the defense.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 9:45 a.m. Thursday. The case will then go to the jury for its verdict.

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