February 17, 2010

Fr. John Karastamatis' Murderer Denied Parole

Man Who Killed Santa Cruz Priest Denied Parole for Five Years

By Jennifer Squires
Santa Cruz Sentinel

VACAVILLE - A former taxicab driver who pleaded no contest to killing the first priest of Santa Cruz's Greek Orthodox church was denied parole Monday, the Santa Cruz District Attorney's Office reported.

Edward Bowman, now 63, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in 1988 and Monday's hearing at Solano State Prison was his third chance for release and parole. The Parole Board ruled he will not be eligible again until 2015, according to Jeff Rosell, the assistant district attorney assigned to the case.

Priest John Karastamatis was bludgeoned and stabbed to death outside the office of The Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in downtown Santa Cruz on May 19, 1985. He was 47.

Bowman, a parishioner, was arrested in January 1986 as the investigation focused on he and his wife, Anna. She had killed herself during a standoff with Santa Cruz police at the couple's River Street home in December 1985 that started when she fired through the door at detectives, according to Sentinel archives. Investigators said she also would have faced charges, if she had not died.

What led to the brutal slaying hasn't ever been sorted out. Investigators and the District Attorney's Office have said the priest possibly interrupted the Bowman's burglarizing the church, but Bowman has had several alternate explanations.

"Basically, it was self defense was what he said this time," Rosell said, speaking of Bowman's statements to the Parole Board on Monday. "It was absolutely contradictory to the evidence."

The inconsistencies in Bowman's explanation of the crime was one of the reasons the Parole Board cited in denying Bowman's release, according to the District Attorney's Office.

To Bowman's credit, he hasn't been involved in violence during his incarceration, according to the D.A.'s Office.

"He's doing the things inside that an inmate should be doing," Rosell said, such as taking classes.

The hearing drew many of Karastamatis' relatives and lasted the entire afternoon, Rosell said.

"A lot of people spoke at the hearing," he said, adding that, other than Bowman, everyone who commented at the hearing was in favor of keeping the Bowman behind bars.

Karastamatis and his family helped solidify the Greek community in the county in the early 1980s and were instrumental in the construction of the congregation's first church building. His widow, Anastasia, remains active at Prophet Elias.