The New York Daily News by Joe Jackson - January 5, 2011
A Brooklyn judge quashed a plea deal Wednesday for a dirty cop charged with killing his girlfriend after her family and a survivor of the shooting begged him to show no mercy. Former cop Jerry Bowens was ordered to stand trial next week for the 2009 slaying of Catherine D'Onofrio after Judge Matthew D'Emic refused to accept an offer of 25-years-to-life. Bowens, 44, now faces 50-years-to-life in prison if convicted of murder. The possibility of a lesser term prompted D'Onofrio's mom, sister and the victim's pal, Melissa Simmons - who Bowens allegedly shot in the head - to write the judge. "The man is a killer and deserves to spend the maximum amount of time for the brutal crimes he committed," Simmons said in a poignant note that also laid bare her personal pain. "I now suffer from headaches and my sleeping patterns vary, depending on whether I have a recurring nightmare reliving that day when he barricaded the doors and taunted us with his gun - until he finally shot Catherine in her head and then turned the gun on me." She continued: "The only sense of safety I get is knowing that he is locked away in prison." "He took Catherine away from us forever," wrote D'Onofrio's mother, Jane. "The idea that he could be released from prison 25 years from now ... is devastating to me and my family." Bowens' lawyer, Wayne Bodden, argued it was inappropriate for the judge to consider the letters and that they should only be admissable during sentencing. D'Emic dismissed the argument, saying the letters had no bearing on his decision to proceed to trial. "My conscience is very clear that everyone in this courtroom is going to get a fair trial," D'Emic said. Pretrial hearings in Brooklyn Supreme Court began immediately and detectives were called to testify - reading Bowens' written and verbal confessions from his arrest. Bowens, a former narcotics cop, is already serving a 1-to-3-year sentence on drug charges stemming from an NYPD corruption case in Brooklyn. Bowens had agreed to testify against fellow officers in the months before D'Onofrio's killing. But in March 2009, he gunned her down in the bathroom of Simmons' house and then turned the gun on Simmons. Days later, he surrendered to cops who found a "hit list" in Bowens' car naming several others he planned to kill. In his confession, Bowens claimed he had intended suicide but accidentally shot D'Onofrio while raising the gun to his head. Simmons was shot when she tried to push the gun away, Bowens claimed. "I loved Catherine more than I've loved any other woman. I never meant to hurt her," he wrote. "The gun went off. Then it was like I was in some kind of a trance. I kept shooting, how many times I don't know." He was initially deemed unfit to stand trial in Donofrio's killing, but was later re-examined and determined to be psychologically fit.