PORT ANGELES — A Joyce-area man was a 6-month-old infant on April 24, 1978, when police found him on a bed in his mother’s Port Angeles apartment.
She was lifeless on the bedroom floor, bound and murdered.
Forty years later, Jimmy Bowcutt sits through Clallam County Superior Court proceedings for Tommy Ross, 59, Janet Dale Bowcutt’s accused killer.
“I’m just going for my mom,” Bowcutt, a stout, bearded former high school football player, said last week on the anniversary of her death.
Bowcutt sat at the dining room table of his home west of Port Angeles off state Highway 112, rum and coke nearby to ease the pain of recounting how much he has missed his mother.
“There’s times when I cried because I didn’t get to know her,” he said. “I’m sad, not having a mom.”
Bowcutt was left physically unharmed by the person who savaged his 20-year-old mother, a Port Angeles High School graduate.
Ross, then 19, was arrested 38 years later on Nov. 15, 2016, at the Canadian border at Blaine while entering the United States and was charged the next day with first- and second-degree murder in connection with Bowcutt’s death.
That same day of his arrest, the former Los Angeles resident had been deported from Canada following his parole that week from Pacific Institute treatment center in Abbotsford.
He had served 37 years for murder in the May 14, 1978 strangulation death of Janice Forbes, 26, of Victoria.
Bowcutt was a a single mother, a Port Angeles High School graduate who worked as a hotel housekeeper.
Her murderer left her to die in the same manner as a Canadian jury determined Ross brutally killed Forbes: with her hands and feet tied together and a neck ligature tied to her feet.
When found dead in her ground-floor apartment in the 600 block of West Eighth Street, she was fully clothed, a piece of yarn wrapped around her neck. She was not sexually assaulted, according to an autopsy.
The aging two-story building she lived in abuts the Tumwater Truck Route bridge, the bedroom window facing the sidewalk.
The afternoon her body was discovered, baby Jimmy was crying loudly enough to alert Janet’s sister, Pam Horkey, and late mother, Patricia Bowcutt, that something was wrong, Horkey said last week.
Jimmy was “crying, fussing, not like screaming crying,” Horkey of Port Orchard recalled.
Port Angeles police broke down the young woman’s front door.
“He had been lying there all day,” Horkey said. “They brought him out, and my mom had him. A neighbor came down the hallway to take him from us, to take care of him.”
Horkey said she visited Bowcutt the night before and was perhaps the last person to see her sister before her killer.
“She was the most awesome person ever, she really was,” said Horkey, who was 17 at the time.
When Janet was 13, the family moved from Los Angeles to the Port Angeles area, where Patricia’s sister lived, to be in a damper climate to fight Horkey’s asthma.
Horkey said Bowcutt was “a math whiz” as well as “the tomboy of the family,” playing football and getting in fights with boys.
When she died “we all had kids we were trying to raise the best we could,” Horkey said.
A Class of 1999 Port Angeles High School graduate, Jimmy Bowcutt earned an auto mechanics degree from Peninsula College, worked in restaurants, and settled into the timber industry jobs.
He has a fiance, Lacey Tenneson; a 13-year-old son, Albi, and a job as a sorter-operator at Interfor Corp.’s sawmill west of Port Angeles.
His knowledge of his mother’s death slowly unfolded as he grew up and became fully known to him only when he was well into adulthood.
A lifelong Port Angeles resident raised by his aunt, he thought his aunt was his mother until he was 8 years old, when he learned his real mother’s name.
He needed his birth certificate for a field trip to Canada.
“My aunt said, ‘Sit on the couch,’ ” he recalled. “I remember it to this day, there was a picture on the wall. She set the picture by me and said, ‘This is your mom.’
“I sat there and didn’t say nothing.
“I didn’t know what to say.”
She didn’t elaborate.
Bowcutt was a freshman in high school when his grandparents told him how his mother died.
“They just said he was murdered by Tommy Ross,” Bowcutt said. “They didn’t go into detail.
“I didn’t know how she was murdered until he was arrested.”
Bowcutt, Horkey and the rest of their family remain convinced that Ross killed Janet Bowcutt, frozen in news accounts as a 20-year-old mom who would would be 60 on May 28 had she lived.
A judge has ruled that an alleged confession Ross made in 1988 while he was in a Canadian prison will be admissible at his trial, scheduled for Oct. 1.
Authorities say Ross’ fingerprint also was found on the doorknob of Janet Bowcutt’s bathroom.
Her neighbor at the Pine Hill Apartments also identified Ross as being outside Bowcutt’s apartment the night before the murder, according to court records.
A court hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday to consider the admissibility of DNA test results that link Ross to the murder scene from a hair that was found on Bowcutt’s blouse.
Bowcutt’s family “all knew” the DNA would connect Ross to the murder, Jimmy Bowcutt said, chuckling.
“Whose else would it be?” he said.
Port Angeles lawyer Lane Wolfley, representing Ross, said Friday that his client talked about Bowcutt’s death with Wolfley on the anniversary of her death.
“He expressed great sorrow over it, and certainly he extends his condolences to the family,” Wolfley said.
“It’s a very sad day for him, too.
“This is one of the tragic crimes in Clallam County history.
“It’s just so tragic, we all feel terrible, and we always will,” Wolfley said.
“But the legal process has to go through because Mr. Ross is adamant about his innocence, so the state is being put to its proof.
“I have great confidence that the legal system will flush out whether or not he is guilty or innocent of this crime.”’
On Ross’ alleged admission of guilt, “he was negotiating with them and there is no truth to the confession,” said Wolfley, who also has challenged the integrity of the fingerprint.
DNA tests on the yarn that was used to strangle Bowcutt showed traces of male DNA but not Ross’, Wolfley added.
The first time Jimmy Bowcutt saw Ross in court following his arrest, he “just glared” at Ross, he said.
Ross’ brother also attends the court hearings.
The two don’t make eye contact or acknowledge each other, Jimmy Bowcutt said.
He visits his mother’s grave at Ocean View Cemetery about a half-dozen times a year, including around April 24.
He didn’t think much of Ross’ condolences, he said Friday standing at his mother’s grave under gray, breezy skies.
“It really doesn’t mean nothing to me,” Bowcutt said.
“He knows he did it.
“He pretty much has to say he’s innocent until the jury finds him guilty.”
He talks to his mom when he visits her grave.
“Ever since Tommy Ross was locked up here, every time I go out there, we will get justice, that’s all I say, every time, which is true, we will,” he said.
“I just want him to rot in hell, in a cell. If I get the chance to tell him that, I will.
“I want him to stay in prison just thinking about what he did, suffer.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].