Local News

Jury selection begins in mortician's murder trial

Posted September 22, 2008 5:44 a.m. EDT
Updated September 22, 2008 4:56 p.m. EDT

— Jury selection began Monday in the murder trial of a Rocky Mount funeral home owner accused to arranging his wife's slaying two years ago.

Mark Bowling, the former owner of several Bowling Funeral Home operations in eastern North Carolina, has been charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the Dec. 8, 2006, shooting death of his wife, Julie Bowling.

The trial was moved to Pitt County because defense attorneys said it would be hard for Bowling to receive a fair trial in Nash County because of the tremendous amount of publicity in the case.

Dressed in a dark suit, Bowling sat quietly with his attorneys Monday as some of the 100 or so potential jurors were questioned. His mother and brother also were in the courtroom.

During the trial, Bowling will face the prosecution's star witness, Rose Vincent, who pleaded guilty in February to second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Vincent confessed that she gunned down Julie Bowling in the garage of the Bowling home and that Mark Bowling had provided her with a map and instructions on how to carry out the crime while he was away on a scuba-diving trip. She told investigators that she and Mark Bowling were having an affair and that he asked her to kill his wife so they could be together.

Vincent is serving a minimum 29-year sentence.

The combination of a prominent businessman, a bloody crime, an illicit affair and allegations that Bowling had strippers perform for him in his funeral homes attracted intense media coverage of the case in Rocky Mount.

In an attempt to limit publicity, Superior Court Judge Quentin Sumner issued a gag order in January to limit public comments about the case by prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Sumner questioned potential jurors Monday about their knowledge of the case. Some said they had read about it in newspapers, but all said they could be impartial.

The Daily Reflector newspaper in Greenville had a front-page story about the trial Monday, and Sumner ordered those in the jury pool not to read it.

Jury selection is expected to take much of this week, and the trial could last two to three weeks.