Ronald Bower, a 52-year-old father of two from Queens, has spent nearly 23 years in prison for heinous sex crimes an ever-growing number of law enforcement officials believe he did not commit.
This list includes current or former members of the New York State (NYS) Inspector General’s Office of the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), and members of the very sex crimes unit that originally arrested and charged him.
Most recently, NYS Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s Office joined these ranks—Thomas Schellhammer, chief of its Conviction Review Bureau—telling the Parole Board at Clinton Correctional Facility it “highly unlikely that Bower committed the crimes for which he was convicted” and urging his “earliest” release in the best interest of society.
Bower was arrested by Queens sex crimes detectives on May 10, 1991 during his shift at the Douglaston Mall, where he worked as a security guard. The then-30-year-old, who had no prior criminal record, was made to change out of his security guard uniform and into a hooded sweatshirt, similar to the one sex crimes victims of a series of attacks along the western Nassau-Queens border in the vicinity of Union Turnpike throughout a roughly two-year span ending in August 1991 reported their assailant as wearing.
The attacker, dubbed the “Silver Gun Rapist” by investigators, would accost his victims, sometimes two at a time, while they walked or entered their vehicles, always threatening them with a gun—oftentimes either a silver or black .38 revolver.
Victims described him as about 30 years old, around 5’6” to 5’8”, 150 pounds, brown or black hair, brown eyes, sporting a moustache, wearing a dark leather or vinyl bomber-style jacket, acid-wash jeans or chinos and gloves. The perpetrator was likely left handed and required access to an automobile to commit the crimes, according to investigators and court documents. He would drive or lure his victims to secluded areas and force them to perform oral sex on him at gunpoint—sometimes, he’d also rape them.
Police labelled these crimes internally as “Pattern #1/91.”
Bower, who weighed approximately 210 pounds at the time of his arrest, is right-handed, and did not possess a gun nor own a car. He passed a polygraph test about the incidents in which he was charged administered by one of the world’s leading experts in the field, Richard O. Arther, and has insisted his innocence ever since. And despite his arrest, the pattern attacks continued.
Three months after Bower’s arrest, unbeknownst to him or his attorneys, another man—a New York City Police officer named Michael Perez—was arrested and charged in two such alleged sexual attacks (though allowed to change out of the clothes he was arrested in and instead wear a suit and tie for his mug shot). In one such incident, Perez was pulled over by police for driving the alleged victim’s car erratically and a loaded .38 was discovered under his seat, according to court documents, investigators and an Aug. 7, 1991 New York Times article titled “Police Say Officer Abducted and Raped Woman.” He was eventually acquitted in both cases—yet an investigation revealed he had been off-duty for many of the Pattern #1/91 attacks, is left-handed, and owned several handguns, according to court documents and investigators—including silver and black .38 revolvers.
Bower was recently granted parole, in part due to the NYS Attorney General’s Office’s recommendation. Because the Conviction Review Bureau fell short of moving to exonerate him, however, he will be released as a sexual offender—a Queens hearing to determine his risk level assessment is scheduled for the near future; a Nassau judge recently rendered him a Level 3 Sex Offender, the highest classification. Bower’s refusal to participate in mandatory sex offender classes, since he still maintains his innocence, was a contributing factor.
Bower’s longtime attorney, Nassau Legal Aid Society appeals bureau chief Jeremy Goldberg, tells the Press that for the father of two to achieve exoneration—something an independent team of law enforcement officials and investigators, his attorney and tortured family vow to never give up on—Bower will need “a miracle.”
Thus, he is making a plea to sex crime victims in the hopes that shedding new light on these brutally vicious attacks will unearth details that can be used to not only help exonerate Bower, but bring the true perpetrator to justice.
Because investigators with knowledge of the aforementioned attacks also tell the Press there were potentially a dozen or more women who were similarly sexually victimized in this vicinity during this time period—whose cases remain unsolved—information obtained from his plea may be just the miracle all these women have been praying for, too.
“You may be able to play a part in saving the rest of Ron Bower’s life,” he says. “Your help could prove crucial.”