Truly Chilling: Chefs and Cannibals

This Truly Chilling blog takes a look at chefs and cannibals. Kalila Smith, an expert on New Orleans history and the paranormal, we’ll discuss more terrifying crimes from the perspectives of paranormal experts and forensic scientists alike.

Tales From The French Quarter by Kalila Smith

Revenge is sweet and not fattening.
-Alfred Hitchcock

Zachary Bowen and Addie Hall during one of their happier moments.

Zachary Bowen was a war hero. While serving as a military policeman in Kosovo and Iraq, he earned numerous awards for his bravery. Bowen had moved to New Orleans in the mid-nineties, leaving only to go to Iraq and returning after completing his tour of duty. During the turbulent winds of Hurricane Katrina he met and fell in love with Addie Hall. Hall offered Bowen shelter in her apartment on Governor Nicholls Street. While the two knew each other before Katrina, the exact details of their relationship are vague.

After Katrina, the two became inseparable. They gained local notoriety for refusing to leave the Quarter after the storm, choosing instead to stand by New Orleans.

Aside from his military honors, no one knew much about Bowen’s past. He had indicated to some that he had been married at one time and had two children. He worked in a local grocery store doing deliveries and bartending part-time.

Hall and Bowen’s relationship was anything but blissful. They fought endlessly, breaking up and reconciling often. They lived troubled, chaotic lives. In the year following Katrina, Bowen was arrested for possession of marijuana and Hall for aggravated assault after pulling a weapon on a man walking in the French Quarter. A friend of Bowen’s reported that he had talked of “getting rid of her.” Many who knew Bowen claim that he often talked negatively about her, yet mysteriously remained in the relationship.

New Orleans’ infamous French Quarter, where Bowen and Hall both lived and worked.

As the city recovered, Bowen and Hall’s relationship began to disintegrate further. By the end of September 2006, the two had been evicted from the Gov. Nicholls apartment and had moved to another at 826 N. Rampart Street, above the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple. At first, things appeared normal to the landlord, but by October 5, Hall had visited him requesting to have Bowen thrown out. Hall had discovered that he had been cheating on her and she had decided to end the relationship. The landlord discussed the situation with Bowen and suggested the couple try to work things out and get back to him with their decision. When the landlord didn’t hear from them again, he assumed that they made up.

Bowen and Hall outside of their French Quarter home.

On the evening of October 16, 2006, Bowen had been out drinking with a friend. He appeared to those who encountered him to be in good spirits and talked about a much needed vacation. His friend even made a comment to him about “being in paradise” the following night. But the night of October 17 turned out to be anything but a trip to paradise for Bowen.

Around 8:30 PM on October 17th, a guest at the Omni Royal Orleans, sitting in an upper level lounge, noticed the body of a man atop the roof of the parking deck. Bowen had jumped to his death from a rooftop terrace with a suicide note tucked into his pocket. His badly mangled body was covered in cigarette burns. Surveillance camera footage shows Bowen walking to the ledge several times before following through with his fateful jump.

No doubt it took some time for him to summon up his courage knowing that this would be his final moment. His suicide note revealed that, riddled with grief and guilt, he realized he could not live with himself. He felt like a failure in every aspect of his life:

I didn’t contact any of my family, so that’ll explain the shock. This is not accidental. I had to take my own life to pay for the one I took…Every last one of these [aspects] I failed at, hence the 28 cigarette burns, one for each year of my existence.

The note directed police to Bowen’s apartment, where Bowen had spray-painted his wife’s telephone number on the wall for her to be notified. Another spray-painted note directed police to a couple of large pots on top of the stove. Inside one they found the head of Addie Hall, in the other her hands and feet. A basting pan inside the oven contained her arms and legs—one had even been sprinkled with seasoning. There were chopped vegetables in a container on top of the stove.

Bowen had left details for the police in Addie’s journal:

Today is Monday 16 October, 2:00 AM. I killed her at 1:00 AM, Thursday, 5 October. I very calmly strangled her. It was very quick.

His note claimed that he had repeatedly had sex with the corpse, passing out drunk on the sofa alongside Addie’s body. The following day, he moved her body to the bathroom and began to dismember her with a handsaw and a knife. Police noted that he had attempted to clean up the bathroom. It took four days for Bowen to decide how to dispose of Addie’s chopped up remains.

He put the thermostat on 60 degrees and went about his normal routine.

Halfway through the task, I stopped and thought about what I was doing. The decision to halt the first idea and move to Plan B (the crime scene you are now in) came after awhile. I scared myself not only by the action of calmly strangling the woman I’ve loved for one and a half years, but by my entire lack of remorse. I’ve known forever how horrible a person I am (ask anyone).

An autopsy performed on Bowen showed no signs of cannibalism. No one knows what he had planned to do as he prepared Addie’s body parts to be cooked. Outside of his cryptic ranting that he left scribbled in the journal, he gave no indication to anyone that he was capable of such a heinous act.

I happened to mention to a friend that I planned to include this story in my book and he told me that he had seen the actual crime scene photos. He described a photo in which portions of her disemboweled torso lay out on the kitchen table. He said she definitely had not been charred as the media suggested, but literally cooked! He also mentioned that despite the report disclaiming any cannibalism, her legs in the pan looked as if they had been eaten partially. He made an analogy to that of a ham that had been “picked over,” revealing underlying bone.

Many people who knew Zachary Bowen said that he had suffered severe trauma during his time served in the Army. He mentioned some horrific event happening to a child that he could not erase from his memory. Clearly another instance where a once normal person simply snapped in the French Quarter. One could attribute his descent into madness to compounded post-traumatic stress disorder…or maybe a dark and evil entity had entered and resided inside of him.

Aggression Cannibalism by Jaci Seelagy

Cannibalism may be the ultimate taboo, but it occurs far more often than most people realize, and for many different reasons. A number of serial killers have practiced cannibalism (see Albert Fish or Jeffrey Dahmer); for them, an urge to consume their victims is just a step away from murder in fulfilling their desire to exercise power over life and death, to possess their victims entirely. Some believe consuming another person allows them to take on certain powers, or take on the life force of that person (see clinical vampirism, or “Renfield’s Syndrome”). But why would someone like Zachary Bowen, who killed out of anger, take the time and effort to cook his victim, even after the immediate rage has faded?

One possible answer, of course, is that cooking and eating a victim is simply a bizarre attempt to dispose of the body. This may be its purpose in the case of the Sweeney Todd-style murder by a Russian chef a few weeks ago—he killed his father-in-law during an argument, then cooked the remains into meat pies to sell to unsuspecting customers. In cases like that of Omaima Aree Nelson, she supposedly killed her husband in response to systematic spousal abuse, and then cooked and ate parts of his body. She began trying to dispose of the rest of it by taking it to various ex-boyfriends for help. Did frying his hands or dipping his ribs in barbecue sauce make it significantly easier to get rid of the evidence? Probably not.

In cases of argument-related murder that end with cooking and/or eating of the body, the motive is more likely the same as the motive for the murder itself—anger. If someone’s rage is so extreme that mere murder doesn’t satisfy it, they may try to continue expressing control and revenge by consuming their victim. It may even simply be a way to draw out the murder over time, continuing it even after the victim’s death.

Of course, Zachary Bowen committed suicide after killing his girlfriend, not exactly a sign of someone wanting to draw out his aggression as long as possible, and the autopsy was said to show no signs of actual consumption of her remains. Cooking, however, shows a clear plan to eat, so it seems he simply changed his mind. This may just be a sign of his rage running out—that it lasted several days before he stopped what he was doing and killed himself instead.

Since most crimes of passion don’t end with a barbecue, something about these killers must separate them from the killers whose anger ends just after death. Omaima Aree Nelson, like Zachary Bowen, was said to have post traumatic stress disorder—could this hinder their ability to stop at murder alone? Or is some other, more sinister influence at work?




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