The Generous Actions Of A Good Samaritan Tragically Led To Her Murder
For more than a decade, Juan Lazaro Abrego has been running from murder charges. Now, the victim's family is hoping a brave tipster will come forward with information to bring justice to their loved one.
MARIETTA, GA — Elizabeth Bowie was known to her family and friends for her carefree personality and desire to always try something new. As a deeply religious woman, her loved ones say it was her faith that inspired her to constantly perform acts of uncommon generosity to others.
While in college, Elizabeth traveled to Jordan, Thailand, Kenya, and Cambodia for mission trips. Elizabeth’s sister Hannah Bowie tells opened up to In Pursuit With John Walsh, saying, “I remember her leaving and the goal of the trip was to meet her child that she had supported through Compassion International.”
Hannah’s mother, Becky Bowie, tells In Pursuit, “Elizabeth gave and gave and she gave when she had nothing to give. She gave two beds away and slept on the floor until the following Christmas when we would get her a new one.” She always gave away food and, in one instance, she even gave away her refrigerator to those less fortunate.
Elizabeth didn’t only give away her things, but her sister remembers, “She gave away my things. She gave away my Dad’s things. I mean, it didn’t matter. You watch your bags, because she would give it away.”
While traveling the world helping others, Elizabeth also made time to get a master’s degree in Urban Teacher Education. While in her mid-twenties, she was offered a job at a local middle school in Marietta, Georgia. She was known to help take care of the students in the classroom and sometimes even at their homes.
Becky remembers, “One of her students came in crying one day to school. And he said, ‘My dad is sick, and he can’t get admitted to the hospital.’” Without hesitation, Elizabeth worked on her own time to get the student’s father into the hospital. While trying to help the family after work, she met an uncle of the student she was assisting who would change her life forever. His name is Juan Lazaro Abrego, and before long, Elizabeth and Abrego hit it off romantically.
Although Abrego and Elizabeth didn’t speak the same language, they couldn’t deny their chemistry.
Elizabeth’s coworker Dean Yoder, who was extremely close to Elizabeth, says, “I remember one time that he put flowers out on her car. It was something that made her feel very special in the beginning.”
Abrego may have gone out of his way to show affection for Elizabeth, but when her family first met Abrego, they were a little concerned. “He doesn’t speak English. How do you talk?" Becky says.
Hannah tells In Pursuit, “I remember him being very quiet. And I know that was because of the language.” Quiet, polite, and shy is how the family would describe Abrego in the beginning, but soon his positive ways began to change.
Becky remembers the fall-out from their first meeting: “Elizabeth called the next day and was very upset. She thought her family was very rude to Juan, that they didn’t talk to him and they didn’t try to include him in the conversation at all. And I said, ‘Elizabeth, nobody, but nobody was rude to anybody,’ and that to me was step number one of him isolating her from her family.”
RELATIONSHIP RED FLAGS
Although Elizabeth wouldn’t keep her family in the loop with her new relationship, Yoder was able to pick up on odd behavior. “After a while, there was concerns that Elizabeth would bring up – starting to just talk about, she never saw the jealous side of him until recently,” Yoder says.
“If she was late from work or if she was at a meeting, he would be concerned that perhaps she was seeing somebody else,” Yoder says. He said Abrego wouldn’t like Elizabeth to have male friends, and he accused her of cheating.
She also confided in Yoder that Abrego’s last partner broke off an engagement with him, and he said that he would never let another female make him feel that way again.
Yoder said Elizabeth would confide in him and tell him about Abrego raising his voice and getting to the point where he could possibly become violent. “I think at the base of Elizabeth, she always felt that someone had something good to give and that there was always a silver lining. And I think deep, deep down, Elizabeth wanted to see the silver lining in Juan,” Yoder adds.
Yoder will never forget one night when Abrego tried to seriously harm Elizabeth. It was May 2008, when Elizabeth called him in a panic. “He was trying to push her out of the car. She knew she was in danger. I asked her where she was, and she said she was in South Cobb. At that point, the phone went dead,” Yoder says.
Becky remembers, “He had been drinking. And he got mad and was pushing on the gas pedal and was going to kill them both, run into a guard rail or pole or something and kill them both.”
Yoder says Abrego threw Elizabeth’s phone out of the car, and continued to try to push her out of the door. Finally, she was able to get him to calm down. In that moment, Hannah says, “She jumped out of the car and went into a ditch just to – that’s the only thing she knew that she could do to maybe survive.”
Becky says her daughter ran down a down a large hill, into an embankment and was scratched from top to bottom.
“After we spoke about that, the first thing came out of my mouth is, ‘You need to break it off, and you need to, you need to get the police involved,’” Yoder adds.
ELIZABETH SAYS GOOD-BYE
Everyone, including Elizabeth, knew it was time for her to end the relationship. Although Elizabeth knew it was done, Abrego was not as accepting of the situation.
Elizabeth wasn’t only done with Abrego, but she already met someone else. “Elizabeth started communication with a classmate that she had graduated from high school with. I remember she called one day, and she said, ‘Mom, I think God is trying to orchestrate something,’” Becky adds.
But Abrego wasn’t going to let his love get away easily. During this time, according to Elizabeth’s friends and family, he refused to leave her alone. Becky says her daughter told her about one instance when Elizabeth came home one night with her new boyfriend, and Abrego was sitting outside the condo. Becky knew in Abrego’s mind, he was not done with the relationship.
A DEADLY DISCOVERY
In July 2008, Elizabeth moved to another county and signed up to teach at another school. Elizabeth was always known to be prompt, punctual, and she never missed a deadline. So on July 29 when she didn’t show up for the new school’s orientation, everyone knew something was amiss.
Yoder remembers, “She lived for school. She lived to teach. She lived for the students. For her not to be where she needed to be, it’d take hell and high water not to get her there.”
For 48 hours there was no sign of Elizabeth. On the third day, Elizabeth’s father, Jeff Bowie, went over to her condo with his wife. They were trying to get inside when they both realized Elizabeth’s car was outside and her purse was visible on the inside.
Jeff contacted the police, who broke the door down. Becky says, “I saw them get their vests and the crime-scene tape out. And I knew before anybody said anything to me that she was up there, and she was gone.”
Becky distinctly remembers, “And then that – I’ve heard it once before — that guttural groaning that just comes from the bottom of your feet, just all the way up. There’s nothing … you can’t say anything. It’s just everything that comes out of you and there’s just that groaning just came and … and then Jeff came. His face was just — it was gray. And he said, ‘She’s gone.’”
In Pursuit spoke to Smyrna Police Detective Mitch Plumb who has worked the case from day one. “When I arrived, I walked into a bedroom where I found the deceased. She was laying on the floor in her bedroom. I notice she’d been dead several days,” Plumb reports. The medical examiner ruled Elizabeth died from asphyxiation by strangulation.
ABREGO ON THE RUN
Plumb says he learned through Abrego’s brothers that the suspect may have fled to Mexico.
“I want Juan caught so another young woman and her family don’t have to go through what Elizabeth went through that morning, and what we’ve gone through since then,” Becky adds.
Although it’s been more than a decade since their loss, Elizabeth’s family wants justice for their loved one.
Investigators say Abrego is known to sport a thick mustache and when the incident occurred, he did not have any tattoos. He’s been spotted in Guerrero, Mexico; and La Cueva, Mexico. Abrego is charged with one count of malice murder, one count of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, and one count of concealing death of another.
TRAITS & CHARACTERISTICS:
- Weight: 170 pounds
- Height: 5 feet 4 inches
- Sex: Male
- Race: Hispanic
- Eyes: Brown
- Hair: Black
- Date of birth: January 31, 1979
- Age: 40
- Last seen: July 29, 2008
- Has worked as a day laborer
- Believed to have fled to Mexico, may be working on a farm
- Formerly worked for his brother’s landscaping company in Atlanta
- Has experience as a security guard
- Does not speak English well
- Likes professional wrestling
- Known to drink heavily
If you know anything about this case or where to find this suspect, please contact our hotline (833-3-PURSUE) or submit a tip online.
For more on this case, watch the “When Good Meets Evil” episode of In Pursuit With John Walsh on Wednesday, February 27 at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery! Or catch up on ID GO.