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Deana Bowdoin’s sister wants people to remember her name as killer is executed

Leslie Bowdoin James, sister of Deana Lynne Bowdoin, talks to the media (Rick Scuteri/AP)
Leslie Bowdoin James, sister of Deana Lynne Bowdoin, talks to the media (Rick Scuteri/AP)

The sister of a student murdered 44 years ago has remembered her as kind and hard-working – and pleaded with people not to forget her.

Leslie James stood at a podium to tearfully tell the world about the young woman Clarence Dixon raped and strangled on January 7 1978.

It took “way, way, way too long” for justice to be done, she said after Dixon was put to death this week, but mainly focused on her sibling, 21-year-old Deana Bowdoin, who was attacked in her apartment near Arizona State University’s main campus in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe.

She was one term away from graduation.

Leslie Bowdoin James, sister of Deana Lynne Bowdoin talks to the media
Leslie Bowdoin James, sister of Deana Lynne Bowdoin talks to the media (Rick Scuteri/AP)

“She wrote amazing poetry,” Ms James said.

“Older people and dogs really seemed to take a liking to her and I think that has to say something about her character.”

As a little girl, Ms Bowdoin had an illness that caused her to miss much of a school year.

But Ms James said she worked hard to catch up with help from their schoolteacher mother.

By the time she went to college, she had blossomed into a bright, outgoing young woman.

She was multi-lingual and studied abroad in Mexico and Spain.

Clarence Dixon
Clarence Dixon was executed on Wednesday (Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Re-entry/AP)

The summer before she was killed, the sisters spent three months travelling by train across Europe – with Ms Bowdoin making friends along the way.

Ms James, two years older than Ms Bowdoin, said her sister was more personable and friendlier than her, “the one who was supposed to have an exciting career, get married and produce grandkids for my mom. But it didn’t work out that way”.

Dabbing her eyes with a tissue, she added: “We should have been able to grow old together.”

Dixon, 66 and nearly blind, was in prison for most of his adult life.

He was first sentenced to life for the 1985 rape of a Northern Arizona University student and then sentenced to death when DNA evidence re-examined by cold case detectives in 2001 inextricably linked him to Ms Bowdoin’s rape and murder.

He was convicted in 2008.

Dixon’s lawyers argued he was too delusional to understand why he was being executed.

Charles Keith stands outside the prison where Dixon was put to death
Charles Keith stands outside the prison where Dixon was put to death (Rick Scuteri/AP)

They said he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia on multiple occasions, experienced hallucinations over the past 30 years and should not be put to death.

Courts repeatedly rejected the appeals.

As the lethal drugs flowed on Wednesday – marking Arizona’s first execution for nearly eight years and the nation’s sixth in 2022 – Dixon again denied killing Ms Bowdoin and blamed the supreme court for not overturning his conviction.

Ms James said testing of DNA done at the request of the killer’s lawyers proves otherwise.

“There was never any doubt that this inmate murdered my sister,” she said.

She also criticised reporters, saying she has seen a shift in recent years away from compassion and acknowledgement of victims’ rights for advocacy for violent offenders and what she called political posturing.

But she mainly wanted people to remember her sister.

“I wish you could have known her,” she told journalists.

“I have just one request of you. All my mom ever wanted was for people to remember Deana.

“Please remember Deana Lynne Bowdoin.”