Port Angeles: Family didn’t want slain victim forgotten

EDITOR’s NOTE: It’s one of many memorial benches along the Waterfront Trail in Port Angeles. The brass plaque next to it reads:

In memory of

Deborah “Debbie” Fields Rowan

1964-1998

Loving mother of Anika.

Always a friend.

Your smile and laughter

will be forever in our hearts.

Your friends and family

Deborah Rowan was killed by her husband, Bruce Rowan, in March 1998. A former emergency room physician at Olympic Memorial Hospital, he admitted to using a baseball bat and axe to bludgeon his wife to death at their home in a rural area of Port Angeles.

A jury found Rowan, now 38, innocent of the murder by reason of insanity. In November 1998 he was committed for an indefinite period to Western State Hospital in Steilacoom for psychiatric treatment.

Now, Clallam County authorities have been notified that Rowan may be ready soon for “provisional release” back into the community, that he has responded well to treatment (PDN, Sunday, March 24).

Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Shea says he will do “everything I can to stop” Rowan’s release.

The story below was published in the Peninsula Daily News on Oct. 8, 1998, shortly after the memorial bench was dedicated by Deborah’s friends and family.

Three weeks later, a jury rejected arguments that Rowan knowingly killed his wife in cold blood to claim a $500,000 life insurance policy and agreed with his Seattle defense attorney that the murder could only have been committed by an insane man.

BY KELLY ADAMS

PENINSULA DAILY NEWS (PUBLISHED OCT. 8, 1998)

PORT ANGELES — Deborah Rowan’s family is so close, her surviving sisters, Stephanie and Diana, finish each other’s sentences.

“We want him to be held accountable,” Diana Fields said.

“For his actions,” Stephanie Bentley said.

Deborah’s husband, Dr. Bruce Rowan, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to first-degree murder in her death on March 1.

The two sisters said they used to talk with Deborah every week.

Bentley was the last person known to have talked to Deborah the night she died.

She said they talked about “Titanic,” the movie the Rowans had gone to that night, and about Bentley’s upcoming visit to help take care of Rowans’ adopted daughter, Anika, while Deborah was recovering from foot surgery.

“She was a very open person. She would have said something if she felt like she was in danger,” Bentley said.

The family said while they knew Rowan suffered from bouts of depression, they don’t think he killed his wife because he was mentally ill.

“It appears to us to be deliberate,” Fields said.

The rest of this story appears in today’s Peninsula Daily News. Click on “Subscribe” to get the PDN delivered to your home or office.

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