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Still Haunted After a Case Goes Cold

The aftermath was different for each of her sons. Devin was so young, only 5 at the time of the killing, the shadow of his father s death just beginning to penetrate him.

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Shamel, the oldest son, 18 then, cradled memories of his superdad. He replayed his first recollection of his father, when he gave him candy. Shamel clamped up and took to bad habits. I was young and dumb, he said. I got high and I got drunk.

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Michael, who was 11, suffered recurring dreams. That night. Watching TV. Hearing gunshots. Rushing to the front porch. Seeing his father lying dead on the street.

He closed down and lost himself in basketball, which he had played with his father. When I played, my father was there, he said. I pretty much played sunup to sunset.

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For Ms. Gowins-Sowells, life became thin. She found herself getting testy. When her sons acted up, she wanted to hit them. Then she scolded herself, they re grieving, that s what it is.

She had to stop abiding the past, which had nothing left for her. New York, where the center of her life had gone missing, felt stifling. She needed to be someplace else.

The refuge she chose was Florence, S.C. Relatives lived there, but no jobs presented themselves. One day, while visiting a friend in Kentucky, she found work selling cellphones and settled in the town of Radcliff. After a while, she switched to an administrative position at a medical clinic.

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Lonely years ground by. Shamel disliked the transition. He returned to New York, started working at Popeyes and stayed with his aunt. Eventually he found a girlfriend, and they moved to Pennsylvania.

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That the killer was free filled Ms. Gowins-Sowells s mind with illogical possibilities. She worried that a friend of hers or even her sons might somehow become friends with the killer, unaware of what he had done. These unwilled thoughts haunted her.

Though she accepted a couple of dates, there was no magic and she backed away from romance.

She lost herself in her imagination. She wrote two romance novels, titillating stories, that she self-published. She conceived movie scripts. It diverted her, kept bad thoughts from slinking back into her head.

She sensed she was nearing the point of editing the killing from her life. Then one day she walked into a Walmart and spotted a man with dreadlocks. She got chills. She walked out.

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She knew to keep busy. She decided to start an organization that would conduct workshops to help survivors of unsolved killings, especially parents raising children of victims, people with jumbled lives like hers having trouble accepting that no one would pay. She named it the Keyz Organization[7] (her shorthand for caring eyes ). Figuring a big city would have a need, she moved to Atlanta. But she couldn t get funding.

Her life kept folding itself into that long ago July night. Wherever she went, she looked for the Honda. For the killer. Who knows, maybe he came to Florence. To Radcliff. To Atlanta. Made no sense, but this was how her mind now operated, rebelling against sense.

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She dearly wanted facts, some sequence that would make a coherent narrative of a Brooklyn night and would explain why she no longer had a husband.

She could do her workshops wherever she lived. Early last year, she decided it was time to return home and look for answers.

Photo Still Haunted After A Case Goes Cold Mr. Sowells and Ms. Gowins-Sowells with their children, Shamel, standing; Devin, on lap; and Michael circa 1997.

The lead detective on the case worked out of the 75th Police Precinct in Brooklyn. She had not spoken to him in years: Mark Brooks. Unable to get him on the phone, she went to the precinct.

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Detective Brooks had worked a lot of homicides in 32 years on the police force. Unsolved homicide cases are never closed, no matter how cold they get. A year or so ago, he had gone to Puerto Rico and made an arrest in a Brooklyn killing from 1989.

The detective told Ms. Gowins-Sowells that he remembered the case like yesterday. Remembered the immovable heat of the night. Remembered her sons and their tears. He had a good memory for cases.

But all he could give her were just smattered details.

Later, in an interview, Detective Brooks said that he spoke to more than five witnesses, and that they said a dispute over a parking space led to the killing. Within the first week, he said, he decided the case was going nowhere. Several months later, he revisited it and nothing new was there. Then you go on to the next one, he said.

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Ms. Gowins-Sowells had heard other theories, something circulated on the street, that it might have been a hit, that money was owed or drugs were involved. And that her brother, Kennedy Gowins, known as Leroy, was somehow connected. And that her husband had introduced her brother to a next-door neighbor, that the neighbor had been killed in the Bronx a year after her husband was.

A hit? Her husband? This version puzzled her and left her deeply unsettled. Was this the truth she was seeking?

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For sure there was turbulence in her family. Leroy Gowins had been living in Utica, N.Y., but he would come around. He had done time for drug possession but said he had abandoned that and was selling T-shirts and hats. Two days before her husband was killed, he had been shot in the head while being robbed in Utica. He survived but lost his sight. The police there had asked him if he knew anything about the Sowells killing and he said he didn t. He now lives in Brooklyn.

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Ms. Gowins-Sowells asked to see the police file on her husband but got nowhere.

She made call after call to the police, sensing they were uninterested. Once, without meaning to be clever, she even asked: When does it get to the point where I m harassing the police? I don t want to get to that point.

She found out nothing more. The case stood still.

On a recent weekday afternoon Ms. Gowins-Sowells lounged on a bench in Madison Square Park in Manhattan, a good place to clear her head. She basked in the unsparing sun, the sky bright as silver. Her heart unexpectedly had been giving her trouble and she had to be hospitalized, found herself in a partial coma, but now she was on the mend.

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She has a round, pleasant face and a mellifluous voice. Her light laugh comes easily on the right subjects. She cries readily when conversation switches to her dead husband.

In her reconfigured life, it had been hard getting her footing. Until she could afford her own place, she had been staying with relatives, and then with a good friend who lives alone in Far Rockaway, Queens, who said she should move in with her.

Michael, now 28, is working as a shift leader at a gas station in Chambersburg, Pa. He still has nightmares, especially on his father s birthday and the day of his death. He replays fond memories: The other day I was telling one of my brothers I remember he was always cleaning. We d wake up, it could be 7 a.m., and he would have breakfast cooking and he would have cleaned the house and he would even have a room or two painted.

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Shamel, now 35, works repairing iPhones in Carlisle, Pa. He thinks of his father all the time. He taught me the value of family, he said. He taught me how to handle money. You don t buy things you want. You buy things you need. I can t see myself buying $350 sneakers. I like paying bills. I check the mailbox to see if I ve got any bills. When I pay a bill, I feel happy.

He doesn t fixate on the killing and its lack of resolution. I ve moved on, he said. My mom needs closure. I don t. That s why I don t talk about it with her. When she brings it up, I try to change the subject.

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Devin, the youngest, is 21, a senior at the University of Kentucky.

For 16 years, Ms. Gowins-Sowells has lived without her husband. She was 32 when he was killed, and now she is 49. She has not remarried. She had gone on a grand total of three dates, love proving elusive. I don t mind dating, she said, but there are all these knuckleheads. I m not picky, but I want someone who I can hold an intelligent conversation with.

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Two decades later, FBI renews call for info on missing 11-year-old

NEWARK[1] — It’s been more than 25 years[2] since Mark Himebaugh left his mother’s home in Middle Township, reportedly to watch firefighters at work on a nearby marsh blaze.

The Del-Haven resident, then 11, was last seen around 4 p.m. on Nov. 25, 1991 by a security guard at Cape May County Park South[3], who reported Himebaugh was walking with a girl. The only physical trace of him searchers ever discovered was his left sneaker, found on a beach[4] along the Delaware Bay. But FBI officials in Newark aren’t giving up hope of finding out what happened to him. On Thursday they renewed calls for information about Himebaugh in recognition of National Missing Children’s Day, which then-President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed on May 25, 1983.

A federal law passed in 1932 gives the top federal law enforcement agency jurisdiction over mysterious disappearance or kidnapping of a child of “tender age,” a category the FBI said in a statement typically encompasses those age 12 or younger.

The FBI wants help finding these missing people[5]

While there are numerous open cases[6] of missing children in the state, Himebaugh’s disappearance has long vexed authorities, who have described the case as a “non-family abduction” and in 2015 released a sketch[7] of a man they described as a person of interest in his disappearance.

Sketch of a man authorities described as a “person of interest” in the case. (Middle Township Police)

Authorities said the sketch resembled Thomas Butcavage, a convicted sex offender who first became associated with the case in 1993. Butcavage, who prison records show is currently incarcerated in Pennsylvania, has never been charged in connection with Himebaugh’s disappearance. In 2015, authorities also released a recording of a 2010 phone call to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children from a man who said he was the “the son of the witness of the crime,” and indicated “Gilbert Patrick Marie” was involved in Himebaugh’s disappearance. NBC Philadelphia reported the call was placed from a pay phone[8] in Port Richmond area of Philadelphia.

Himebaugh would have celebrated his 37th birthday on Tuesday, according to the FBI.

Authorities have asked anyone with information about Himebaugh, or any missing child, to call the FBI’s Newark Division office at 973-792-3000, their local police department or 911.

Thomas Moriarty may be reached at


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Amy Reed, Doctor Who Fought a Risky Medical Procedure, Dies at 44

Some insurers began declining coverage for morcellation, and one major manufacturer took its morcellators off the market. Use of the technique dropped.

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Dr. Reed, an anesthesiologist and the mother of six children, underwent surgery involving morcellation in 2013, when, at 40, she had her uterus removed because of fibroids. The operation was performed at Brigham and Women s Hospital in Boston, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School, where both Dr. Reed and Dr. Noorchashm had teaching positions. A biopsy[2] after the operation found that Dr. Reed had a hidden leiomyosarcoma, an aggressive type of cancer.

Only then were Dr. Reed and her husband told that her surgeon had used a power morcellator to slice up her uterus. The device allows doctors to work through small slits rather than big, open incisions, so that patients can heal faster and run less risk of bleeding and infection.

At that time, morcellation was performed on 50,000 women a year in the United States to help remove fibroids[3], or to remove the entire uterus.

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The device had sprayed malignant cells around inside Dr. Reed s abdomen, leaving her with an advanced, Stage 4 cancer.

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As physicians, Dr. Reed and Dr. Noorchashm knew at the time that her morcellation procedure could be a death sentence. As a surgeon himself, Dr. Noorchashm was outraged at the idea of shredding potentially cancerous tissue inside a body cavity. He had been trained to cut around tumors whenever possible, not through them, precisely because slicing into them could spread the cancer cells.

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Dr. Reed quickly embarked on a series of aggressive treatments, but she still suffered one recurrence after another, in her abdomen, lungs and spine. She had several major operations and received arduous courses of chemotherapy[7], radiation, immunotherapy and experimental treatment.

The couple fought the medical establishment as fiercely as they did the cancer, seeking to ban morcellation. They sent thousands of emails to the F.D.A., device makers, hospitals, legislators, professional societies and individual doctors, and they reached out to news organizations to publicize their cause.

Dr. Noorchashm also collected the names and histories of women whose cancer had spread after morcellation, enlisting them, or their survivors, in the crusade.

Photo Amy Reed, Doctor Who Fought A Risky Medical Procedure, Dies At 44 Dr. Amy Reed with her husband, Dr. Hooman Noorchashm, and their children in their backyard in Yardley, Pa., in the summer of 2015. Credit Jennifer Capozzola

Their activism, alienating some colleagues and aggravating administrators, came at a price. Dr. Noorchashm had been a rising star in cardiothoracic surgery at Brigham and Women s, where his wife had the operation, but as he continued to criticize its gynecology department, his career there began to stall.

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He and Dr. Reed were both hired by the University of Pennsylvania, and moved there in 2014. Both had extended family in and around Philadelphia.

They had apparently burned their bridges at Harvard. At one point, when Dr. Reed needed to return to Brigham and Women s for a medical procedure, she and Dr. Noorchashm were stunned to find that the hospital had assigned a guard to inspect their bags and escort them at all times, for security reasons. Dr. Noorchashm called a lawyer. A judge put a stop to the escort, issuing a restraining order against the hospital.

The gynecology profession also fought back against Dr. Noorchashm and Dr. Reed, insisting that leiomyosarcoma was so rare that the benefit of morcellation the ability to have minimally invasive surgery far outweighed any risk.

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Before 2013, the F.D.A. had received no reports of uterine cancers being spread by morcellators. But after Dr. Reed and her husband went public interviewed by newspapers, magazines and TV news shows reports began to pour in. Dr. Reed, with her hair gone and her youngest child sometimes climbing onto her lap during interviews, was a sympathetic figure.

The couple s efforts gained traction. The F.D.A. responded by studying published and unpublished medical data on morcellation. Before then, estimates of how many women with fibroids would have undiagnosed leiomyosarcomas or other uterine sarcomas were based on studies of varying reliability, and ranged from 1 in 10,000 to in 1 in 500. But the F.D.A. concluded in April 2014 that hidden sarcomas were more common than earlier estimates had stated and probably occurred in about one in 350 women[10] with fibroids. The tumors are extremely difficult to detect without surgery.

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Soon after the F.D.A. issued its findings, one maker of morcellators, Johnson & Johnson, pulled its devices off the market. But others remained.

In November 2014, the F.D.A. went further, recommending that power morcellators[12] not be used[13] in the vast majority of women having fibroid surgery. Using the device in women with undetected sarcomas, it said, may spread cancer and decrease the long-term survival of patients. The F.D.A. portrayed the statement as a safety communication, not as an announcement of a new regulation.

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Morcellator use dropped significantly, but many gynecologists still favored it, and the devices remained available. Dr. Noorchashm and Dr. Reed would not settle for less than a complete ban, and continued to agitate. They prodded legislators to ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate morcellation.

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In a report issued in February, the G.A.O. criticized the F.D.A. s method[16] of collecting data on problems stemming from morcellation, noting that the system was dependent on voluntary reports from doctors, who frequently fail to report bad outcomes.

The F.D.A. said it agreed that it needed a better system to detect harm to patients. By September 2016, the agency had received 285 reports of uterine cancer[17] being spread by morcellation.

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Amy Josephine Reed was born on March 22, 1973, in Bristol, Pa. Her mother, the former Joann Tunis, was a pharmacist and executive at the drug company Pfizer. Her father, William Reed, was a health insurance[19] consultant.

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Dr. Reed graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1995 and went on to the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a Ph.D. in immunology and a degree in medicine. She specialized in anesthesia[21] and critical-care medicine.

She and Dr. Noorchashm met as graduate students and married in 2001. In 2011, both were offered teaching posts at the Harvard Medical School and clinical positions at its affiliated hospitals Dr. Noorchashm at Brigham and Women s and Dr. Reed at Beth Israel Deaconess. She treated victims of the Boston Marathon[22] bombing in 2013, as well as the surviving bomber.

Besides Dr. Noorchashm, Dr. Reed is survived by her parents; her daughters, Nadia and Ava; her sons, Joseph, Joshua, Luke and Ryan; and seven siblings: Alison Perate, Andrea Kealy, Amber Trainer, Matthew Reed, Justin Reed, Daniel Trainer and Sarah Trainer.

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