Killer gets 25 years to life

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat

A 33-year-old man who shot and killed his Columbia neighbor received 25 years to life in state prison Monday in Tuolumne County Superior Court.

Vernon Bowers sat silently wearing a red Tuolumne County Jail inmate jumpsuit and looking straight forward as Assigned Judge William G. Polley handed down the sentence for first-degree murder.

Without saying a word, Bowers was then escorted out of the courtroom by sheriff's deputies.

Bowers accepted a plea agreement with prosecutors last month in order to avoid life in prison without the possibility of parole.

He will be required to serve at least 25 years before he can be considered for release.

The sentence brings to end a nearly three year saga that saw Bowers serve stints in prison and county jails in both Tuolumne and Fresno counties as the murder case worked its way through the justice system.

On Oct. 26, 2009, Bowers shot neighbor Michael Keith Bates in the face with a shotgun from close range. Prosecutors theorized robbery as the motive for the murder because money from a check Bates cashed earlier that day was missing from his person and residence.

Bowers was originally implicated in the murder by fingerprints found at the scene and witnesses who told sheriff's detectives that Bowers had claimed responsibility for the killing.

In November 2009, Bowers was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender after moving from Fresno. Details of his initial conviction are sealed because the crime occurred when he was a juvenile.

Bowers served more than a year in prison before being transported to Fresno County Jail in May 2011 to face a probation violation.

Upon his transfer, Bowers was released on his own recognizance after officials apparently overlooked a Tuolumne County arrest warrant for first degree murder.

A fugitive apprehension team located Bowers days later and returned him to custody.

He was finally transferred to Tuolumne County to be arraigned on the murder charge in November 2011.

The District Attorney's Office decided not to seek the death penalty.

Contact Alex MacLean at or 588-4530.

The Union Democrat
This image is copyrighted.

Reach all of Sonora, Calaveras County, Tuolumne, Angels Camp, Twain Harte, & Jamestown with your items to sell.

Ads appear Online and in Print

View Classifieds Place an Ad

Connect with The Union Democrat

Union Democrat Newsstand

Friday October 28, 2016

Read digital interactive editions of our publications

Read Today's Edition Take A Tour

More Publications by The Union Democrat

View All Publications
This is not horse play


Tuolumne County Animal Control on Wednesday hosted the Animal Technical Rescue First ... more

Residents complain about cultivation enforcement


Residents of El Rancho Loma Serena Homeowners Association said they believe Calaveras ... more

Columbia Elementary gets an interim leader


The Columbia Union School Board Tuesday hired Diane Dotson as interim superintendent-principal. ... more

All Hallows Fantasy Faire


Hundreds of people of all ages, costumed and non-costumed, attended the eighth ... more

New oak disease spreads from coast to foothills


A deadly fungus killing oak trees along the coasts of central and ... more