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Chavers,62, pleads guilty to murder

BY PORTSIA SMITH

A Louisa County woman who dumped her boyfriend’s body into a well was convicted yesterday of first-degree murder.

Ulisa Mary Chavers, 62, entered an Alford plea in Louisa Circuit Court, stating that she did not murder 53-year-old Reginal Cody Bowles but understood there was compelling evidence against her. Under an Alford plea, a defendant doesn’t have to admit guilt, but acknowledges there is enough evidence to convict.

She was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the murder charge, with 20 years suspended.

A jury trial was scheduled to start in Louisa yesterday, but it was called off when Chavers decided to enter the Alford plea.

According to defense attorney Mike Caudill, a key reason for the plea was new evidence that was going to be presented by prosecutors that would have shown that Chavers canceled Bowles’ health insurance policy with Anthem a week before he was last seen alive, which was Christmas 2006. Chavers said she canceled it because he could no longer afford it.

“It has always been her position that she did not kill Mr. Bowles,” Caudill told Judge Timothy K. Sanner. “But this information gives the commonwealth a better case for premeditation.”

Chavers entered the courtroom in a wheelchair wearing an orange jumpsuit, shackles and makeup. She didn’t speak much, and when she did, it was just above a whisper.

Chavers was arrested in March 2009 after authorities found Bowles’ body in a 25-foot-deep unused well in Mineral. His body was wrapped in several sleeping bags, according to court records. In court yesterday, a photo of Bowles’ well-preserved body was shown curled up in the fetal position.

The discovery was the result of an investigation that started in October 2008, when Bowles’ son from Florida told police he hadn’t heard from his father since Christmas 2006. Chavers told authorities and his children that Bowles had moved to Montana in early 2007 to join a motorcycle gang.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty McGuire said that didn’t add up because there was no out-of-state financial activity by Bowles, his $1,400 monthly Social Security checks were being cashed locally, and he hadn’t filled any prescriptions for his heart condition.

Chavers told investigators her boyfriend had LASIK surgery on his heart so he didn’t need the medicine anymore. She also provided fake photographs to police to try to prove he wasn’t missing, McGuire said in court.

When police continued to ask questions, Chavers dumped Bowles’ body in the well. She said she initially hid the body in a shed and covered it with lime in an attempt to hide the decaying odor–a stench Bowles’ children remembered smelling when they came to the house to look for him.

Chavers said Bowles died of natural causes. She told police that “his pacemaker was going bonkers all night,” but an examination of the “black box” inside of his 2003-installed pacemaker showed no sign of any malfunction.

A cause of death was inconclusive, but four times the lethal dosage of benztropine, a prescription drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia, was found in his liver. McGuire said it is likely that Chavers was slowly poisoning Bowles and was waiting for him to die.

Benztropine is not recommended for people with heart problems.

McGuire said he believes Chavers killed Bowles because he was planning to switch the power of attorney he had given her to his son, Dave.

After that, McGuire said, Chavers told his two sons and daughter that their father wanted nothing to do with them because all they wanted him for was his money.

Before agreeing to the plea, Judge Sanner lectured Chavers.

“This strikes the court as something cold-blooded and deliberate,” he said. “You lived with the stench of the decay of the body. A constant reminder of the crime committed would be more than most people could bear, and you appear to deal with it reasonably well. Far too reasonably well. Whatever you are, you are, and the court is not going to change you.”

Chavers was previously sentenced to 15 years to serve on related charges of identify theft, credit card fraud, embezzlement and improper disposal of a body. She is in poor health and suffered two strokes since being incarcerated, her attorney said.

“Essentially, it is a life sentence for her,” said Bowles’ son, Lee, who lives in Florida. “I’m happy that she’s going to spend the rest of her life in prison, but it’s not like she pleaded guilty because she felt bad.”

Chavers also faces a murder charge in Amelia County in the death of her second husband, Clent Chavers. His beheaded body was found buried in the back of the couple’s home in April 2009. She will appear in court for that case on Jan. 6.

Authorities said Chavers stole about $175,000 by continuing to cash Social Security checks from the two dead men and from a life insurance policy on Bowles’ mother, who was in her care before she died.

Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419

Email: psmith@fredericksburg.com

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