Kevin Brian Dowling

York County, Pennsylvania
Date of Crime:  October 20, 1997

Kevin Brian Dowling was charged with of the robbery of 43-year-old Jennifer Lynn Myers. Fourteen months after the robbery, when Dowling was out on bail, Myers was murdered. Dowling was convicted of both crimes and sentenced to death for the murder.
 
Myers was robbed on Aug. 5, 1996 at the shop she owned named Tailfeathers Gallery and Custom Framing in West Manchester Twp., Pa. A U.P.S. delivery driver, Gary Altland, arrived at her shop at 11:00 a.m. He said the victim reported she had been robbed at gunpoint and tied up. She told him she might know her assailant, that someone was playing a trick on her, and that she did not want the police or her husband called. Altland left and mentioned the crime to a woman at a nearby animal hospital who called police at 11:09 a.m. He told police he did not see a suspect or vehicle. Following the report of the robbery, a police officer, Peter Haines, said he happened to see the apparent robber leave Myers' shop and get into his car about 10:50 a.m. The robbery suspect crossed the street right in front of his police cruiser. An elderly couple, William and Linda Jarmon, also saw the same suspect at this time.
 
Prior to the robbery Myers had worked for a man named Randall Turner but had left to start her own business in a building Turner rented to her. Immediately following the robbery, Myers told witnesses that that Turner did not take her leaving his business and going out on her own very well and indicated that Turner may have been involved in the robbery. To some witnesses she said that she knew who the perpetrator was and that the attack was some type of “joke” and that, as a result, she did not want to contact the police.
 
Myers reported having an argument with Turner days before the robbery; She repaid Turner the full amount of a business loan and moved the location of her business shortly after the robbery to a building in Spring Grove that was not owned by Turner; She renamed her business Greyfox Gallery; Myers indicated to others that she had a conversation with Turner following the robbery wherein Turner was crying and apologized to her; She gave the police information that Turner had people who would “do things for him;” Following her murder, Turner shared the proceeds from the sale of Myers’ business.
 
Three months after the robbery, Myers stopped at a Sheetz convenience store in Hanover, Pa. and saw a man she said reminded her of the robber. Myers did not report her observation until two weeks later when police contacted her and said they had no suspects in the robbery. Myers explained her failure to report the observation by saying that she was “not certain” the man she saw in the store was the perpetrator. She also indicated that the similarity to the perpetrator of the man she saw was based on voice and skin tone rather than on facial recognition.  In her detailed description of the robber she initially gave the police, she made no mention of his voice or skin tone.

A police report states that Myers and her husband Steve were regular customers of the Hanover Sheetz store.  They would buy gas and she would go inside the store to get coffees and pay for everything.  The report stated that the man in question was wearing a “Manager” nametag.  After Myers' death her husband gave testimony that his wife mentioned the man to him at the time of their visit, but he left without going inside to see who she was talking about.

At the time of Myers' sighting of the possible perpetrator, the Hanover Sheetz store trained all Sheetz General Managers and Assistant Managers for the region.  On any given day there were 4 to 6 clerks on duty along with 1 or 2 Assistant Manager trainees and 1 or 2 General Manager trainees.  There was also a Training General Manager.  The Assistant Manager trainees wore company smocks and hats and nametags that said “Manager.”  The General Manager trainees were dressed differently, wearing white dress shirts, ties, and burgundy colored cardigan sweaters.  They also had personalized nametags.  One of the General Manager trainees was Kevin Brian Dowling.  He wore a name tag that said “Kevin.”

When police questioned Dowling, he told them that on the day of the robbery he drove to the Hanover Sheetz store from his home in Lancaster County.  This trip took him on Rt. 30 on which police told him Myers' shop was located.  At the time of the robbery Dowling worked as a General Manager for Wendy's Restaurants.  He was offered a position at Sheetz and if he accepted, he would have to attend training at his choice of Sheetz stores, one in Hanover, Pa. and another in Reading, Pa. Before accepting a position, he visited the Hanover store.  This visit occurred on the day of the robbery. Dowling’s trip to Hanover took him past Myers’ shop at 10 a.m.  and again at 11 a.m. on his return. The robbery occurred about 10:45 a.m.  Dowling arrived before noon at the Wendy’s restaurant in Highspire, Pa., which he managed, wearing his Wendy's General Manager uniform. Dowling accepted a position with Sheetz the next day.  Police arrested Dowling for the robbery of Myers' shop eight days after she reported the man who reminded her of the robber.

Myers was never taken to the Sheetz store to identify anyone, nor did she identify Dowling in any physical lineup or photo array. Following his arrest on Dec. 4, Dowling’s mugshot photo was displayed in the newspaper and on television news. It is assumed Myers saw it. At his preliminary hearing on Feb. 24, 1997, a prosecutor pointed out Dowling to Myers.
 
At the time of the robbery Myers said the assailant wore a dark cap and aviator style sunglasses. She said he had held a gun in his left hand, dropped it, and picked it up with his left-hand. The assailant had a military or police demeanor and told her that he had just gotten out of prison and did not want to go back. Dowling is right-handed, had no military or police training, had no prior convictions, had never been imprisoned, and did not own any clothing that matched the assailant's. Myers described her assailant as being in his late forties, about 5'6" tall, and weighing about 185 lbs. Dowling was 38 years old, at least 5'11" tall, and weighed 205 lbs.  He had a somewhat broken pair of sunglasses (non-aviator) in his car when arrested four months later.
 
The day before Dowling's arrest, Myers suddenly remembered she had been sexually assaulted as well as robbed. Such a remembrance may have been encouraged by the police in order to create juror prejudice against the person they planned to charge with the robbery. At Dowling’s trial, 20 months after the crime, the U.P.S. driver, Gary Altland, would change his account of his encounter with Myers to accommodate this alleged assault.  At trial Altland claimed that Myers came down the steps tossing ropes off, with a torn blouse and a bra up around her neck. He claimed she said the suspect tried to rape her. An Officer Crider testified he arrived at 11:15 a.m., and found the victim on the phone to police then herself. He was not told about an attempted rape, her clothes were in order, and he saw no rope marks on her wrists or ankles, as Altland claimed. Altland also claimed that he saw something go by him quickly as he was bringing in packages and then heard tires squealing and horns blowing. In connection with the robbery Dowling was also convicted of an attempted sexual assault of Myers.
 
Ten months after Dowling's arrest, while he was out on bail, Myers was shot to death at her new shop in Spring Grove, Pa. The following day Dowling's attorneys filed a motion on their own to dismiss the charges against him because the case could not proceed as their client was now unable to confront his accuser. Dowling did not speak to his attorneys until after the motion was filed. The timing of the motion raised suspicion that Dowling killed Myers to get the robbery case against him dismissed. The trial judge delayed ruling on the motion, giving police and prosecutors two months to meet with other witnesses and coach new statements from them about what Myers allegedly told them. None of the witnesses’ statements were reported to the police prior to the murder. These statements were ruled admissible as “excited utterance” exceptions to the hearsay rule.
 
On the day of the murder, Dowling went fishing on a lake  He said he planned to fish the whole day but because the fish were not biting, he left at 11:05 a.m. to go to Adult World entertainment establishment in Harrisburg, Pa.  He was in Harrisburg at the time of the murder which occurred about 12:57 p.m. He then returned to the lake to fish, arriving there about 3 p.m. Since he had previous arguments with his wife for going to places like Adult World, he videotaped himself fishing to show her he spent the day innocuously. He made numerous video clips of himself and altered the time display on four of the afternoon clips to an earlier time so that his wife would believe he spent the whole day at the lake.
 
Early the next morning, while Dowling was working an overnight shift, police came to his house and questioned his wife. She told them he spent the day fishing and showed them the videotape, which police seized. At Dowling’s trial the prosecution presented the videotape as a false alibi intended by Dowling to fool the police. However, neither he nor his attorneys presented it as an alibi or in a notice of alibi. He told his attorney the day after his arrest for the murder that he was at Adult World at the time of the murder.
 
Years later the Court TV show Forensic Files produced and aired a TV episode entitled “Shadow of a Doubt,” that focused on the Dowling’s alleged videotape alibi. The show’s producers did not consult with Dowling or anyone connected with his defense. The show even claimed that Dowling was left-handed as was Myers’ robber. As proof, it displayed a prosecution supplied photo of Dowling holding a phone in his left hand. The prosecution had admitted in court that Dowling is right-handed.
 
There is much evidence that Dowling had been at Adult World on the day of the murder although this evidence was not revealed until years after his convictions. Adult World and the lake where he went fishing are both about an hour’s drive from the scene of the murder.  Adult World is also about an hour's drive from the lake. Two school bus drivers, Karen Wood and Kim Able, saw the murder suspect in a parking lot near the murder scene between 7:50 and 8:20 a.m. A third witness saw the murder suspect in the same parking lot between 10 and 10:35 a.m. when she went into a store to shop. She said that after she exited the store at 10:50 a.m., the suspect almost hit her with his car. The videotape makes clear that Dowling was still fishing at 10:44 a.m. (this time was acknowledged to be legitimate by an expert witness called by the prosecution). Thus the murder suspect seen by witnesses could not have been Dowling.
 
At trial for the robbery, Officer Peter Haines testified that he looked right at the purported assailant, but could not identify Dowling as the man he saw, nor his car. However, the elderly couple, William and Linda Jarmon, who also saw the purported assailant, identified Dowling and his car. This identification occurred 20 months after the robbery, after the Jarmons had undergone hypnosis by a police hypnotist.
 
Much evidence implicates other suspects in robbery and murder. One of them is the Randall Turner mentioned above. Another is Howard Poteet, a man who went on a robbery spree in the York County area. In his known robberies Poteet wore clothing similar to those described by Myers. In 1995 Poteet had spent months in prison on forgery charges before being paroled 9 months before Myers' robbery.  Myers' robber told her he had recently been in prison and had no desire to return. Poteet was also known to have been in the general area of Myers' shops at the times of the robbery and murder. He was known to return to the same locations to commit crimes twice. A witness of the murder suspect made a composite that bears a strong resemblance to Poteet.  A second witness identified a newspaper photo of Poteet as being similar to the murder suspect she saw.

Another suspect in the murder is Steven Myers, the victim’s husband. A pair of sunglasses were found near the decedent’s body, and although Myers talked to police on the day of the murder, he did not admit the sunglasses were his until days later, after it became obvious that police were interested in them as a means of identifying the murderer. Myers told police that he was at work until 3 p.m. on the date of the murder. Nevertheless, when police sought his time-card to verify his alibi, Myers’ employer, Mr. Robert Myers, refused to provide it.
 
The murder weapon was determined to be a .357 caliber revolver, Smith and Wesson model. Steven Myers owned this same model. Steven’s brother, Lonnie Myers, turned over Steven’s gun to the police 17 days after the murder. Police never officially ruled it out as the murder weapons.

There was much evidence in the case that was withheld from Dowling's defense during his trials or destroyed by the police.  The two 911 calls made reporting the robbery were destroyed by police along with transcripts made of them.
 
In 2001, three years after his convictions, Dowling got photocopies of two boxes of withheld discovery material from both of his trials. In it was proof that the prosecutor coached and tampered with witnesses in both trials. In 2007, Pennsylvania Governor Rendell signed a death warrant for Dowling. Dowling's execution has since been stayed.  [10/12]

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Reference:  Dowling Case Files

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Central Pennsylvania Cases