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A look back at the Deana Bowdoin case

Deana Bow
Posted at 4:48 AM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 11:47:21-04

World traveler, animal lover, and devoted student — Deana Bowdoin, who was just a few months away from graduating from Arizona State University, seemed to have it all until it was all tragically taken away on Jan. 7, 1978.

According to investigators, Bowdoin was found inside her Tempe apartment. She had been raped and strangled. To make what happened even more tragic, her family had no idea who would want to hurt this bright, vibrant young woman --and they would have to wait decades for any answers.

Bowdoin's case sat cold until new DNA technology would crack it wide open and lead detectives to someone who was already known by police.

In 2008, DNA evidence linked Clarence Dixon to Bowdoin's case. Dixon was already serving a life sentence in the Arizona State Prison System for a different sexual assault in 1986.

In the years leading up to Dixon's scheduled execution, his team has made multiple attempts to have his life spared, most recently, arguing that Dixon is not mentally competent. They have also made claims that the drug that will be used in his lethal injection, set to take place on May 11, 2022, is expired. The Arizona Attorney General's Office told ABC15 that the Department of Corrections has assured them the drugs are not expired.

RELATED: Understanding the death penalty in Arizona

Leslie James, Bowdoin’s sister, released the following statement ahead of Dixon’s execution:

“Deana was a beautiful person, inside and out. She was only 21 and in her last semester at ASU when she was violently taken from my family. The last forty-four plus years of reliving Deana’s brutal murder as well as enduring the trial and appellate litigation has been nothing short of horrific for our family. As victims, the Arizona Constitution guarantees a prompt and final conclusion of this matter. Our parents wanted nothing more than to ultimately see justice for Deana. Unfortunately, they both passed away before punishment could be imposed.”

Deana Bowdoin

She continued:

“Not one day goes by that I don’t think of Deana AND wait and wish for justice. I will never stop thinking of Deana, but I look forward to resolution of Dixon’s criminal matter through the imposition of punishment. Deana’s brutal murder, the 23 years of wondering who was responsible, and the 21 years of our involvement in the criminal justice process has been a long road that none of us asked for and none of us deserved.

I am also hoping for peace and justice for Dixon’s many other victims.

Nothing about this case or my experience in the criminal justice system has been prompt. However, I am forever grateful for the work of the Tempe Police Department as well as the many other criminal justice professionals involved in this case. I am also grateful for the many efforts of Governor Ducey as well as Attorney General Brnovich and his staff for their commitment to justice and for taking measures to bring an end to this arduous process.

I ask that you respect my privacy during this time.”