The case of a killing that shocked Columbia’s Rosewood neighborhood and saw residents question a well-known community member is over after nearly three years.
On Friday, Peggy Bowers pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the killing of Joan Staub.
She pleaded with what’s known as an “Alford plea,” which means she maintained that she did not commit the crime and that she only pleaded guilty to avoid further court proceedings and the possibility of a longer sentence.
“Peggy Bowers has always maintained her innocence and this resolution under North Carolina v. Alford is consistent with that,” said Robert Banks, Bowers’ public defender. “With her age and health, a trial was not practical, particularly when further jail time was taken off the table.”
Police originally charged Bowers with murder in 2018, but her public defenders were able to work out a plea deal with prosecutors to the lesser charge.
Bowers has the possibly of not spending any more time in prison following the plea. Judge R. Kirk Griffin sentenced the 69-year-old Bowers to three years probation.
Griffin also suspended a 10-year prison sentence to two years, and gave Bowers credit for time served. If Bowers meets all the terms of her probation in the first year, her probation would end after that first year.
She had spent two years in jail awaiting trial. However, if Bowers violates her probation she could be sent back to prison.
A community stunned
Staub was known as a giving and talkative person in Rosewood, always willing to help neighbors. She chatted with neighbors when she walked her dog and helped people with yard work.
A medical conditions when she was young stunted her growth and caused her to have an underdeveloped hand, family had said. She was 4 feet, 9 inches tall.
Bowers was also well known in the neighborhood, often seen walking the streets or in the Publix grocery store parking lot. She had lived in Rosewood for decades.
Bowers had dealt with homelessness and mental health issues, people close to her said. She was friendly but had a volatile side as well, according to Rosewood residents.
Community members often helped her with places to stay. One of those people was Staub.
Bowers lived at Staub’s home on Huntington Avenue during the 2010s. The two appeared to be friends. One Rosewood resident said they seemed inseparable for a time.
In August 2018, Bowers called police to report that Staub was covered in blood in her bedroom. Authorities said that Staub was beaten to death. The next month, police charged Bowers with murder in her former roommate’s death.
The killing and charge rocked Rosewood residents who knew the two. Some questioned if Bowers was actually the person they believed she was.
Bower spent months in jail until a judge released her to home confinement in Aiken County.
Her mental fitness to stand trial came up in the course of the case. At a bond hearing, Bower’s public defender brought up the prospect that police had inadequately investigated the case, and that another person who lived in the house may have killed Staub.
A trial was set for this month. Instead, the prosecution and defense worked out the plea deal.