Local News

Mortician pleads guilty to planning wife's slaying

Posted September 29, 2008 10:43 a.m. EDT
Updated September 29, 2008 6:34 p.m. EDT

— A Rocky Mount funeral-home owner was sentenced Monday to more than 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to plotting with his mistress to kill his wife two years ago.

Mark Bowling, the former owner of several Bowling Funeral Home operations in eastern North Carolina, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the Dec. 8, 2006, shooting death of Julie Bowling.

He was sentenced to 189 to 236 months in prison.

The plea ended a high-profile trial that began a week ago. The trial had been moved to Pitt County because the intense publicity around the case in Nash County reduced the chance of finding impartial jurors.

Bowling's mistress, Rose Vincent, pleaded guilty in February to the same charges and was planning to testify against him. She is serving at least 29 years in prison.

She admitted that she gunned down Julie Bowling in the garage of the Bowling home, but said Mark Bowling provided her with a map and instructions on how to carry out the crime while he was away on a scuba-diving trip.

Defense attorneys maintained last week that Vincent killed Julie Bowling on her own because she had a "fatal attraction" for Mark Bowling and had to get his wife out of the way so she could be with him.

Attorney Thomas Sallenger said Monday that the defense team determined Monday that Bowling would be best served with a plea deal.

"After looking at what we anticipated the rest of the evidence to be in the case, we thought that this resolution was the best for Mr. Bowling, and Mr. Bowling strongly agreed," Sallenger said. "It means he is stating in court that he's guilty, but beyond that, that was all he would say."

Nash County District Attorney Howard Boney declined to comment after the case, as did Julie Bowling's relatives.

"The family was satisfied, and that's what mattered here," Nash County Sheriff Dick Jenkins said.

Vincent's statement to investigators was read to the eight-woman, four-man jury on Friday. She told them Bowling offered her $50,000 to kill his wife and even threatened to kill himself if she didn't carry it out.

"I know I'm a big girl, but I wouldn't do it if it wasn't for him," she told investigators. "I was like his puppet."

Vincent was in court Monday, and prosecutors said she would have been the next witness if a plea agreement hadn't been reached.

During the plea hearing, Assistant Nash County District Attorney Keith Werner said a friend of Mark Bowling's also would have testified that Bowling handed him his cell phone before he went scuba diving and told him to answer it when it rang. After taking a call, the friend told Bowling to call the Nash County Sheriff's Office.

During a 911 call played for jurors last week, Bowling never asked how his wife died. Werner said Bowling's friend planned to testify that Bowling immediately called his funeral home and told people Julie Bowling had been shot.