Carnegie murder victim remembered at candlelight vigil
Colleen Bowers doesn't exactly know where the idea to hold a candlelight vigil on the one-year anniversary of her daughter Melissa's death originated.
But she woke up one morning in late December with the thought in her mind.
“I don't know if Melissa put it in my head, but I kept (debating it),” Bowers said. “I didn't know if I could do it. Jan. 3, I woke up in the morning (and) I just decided, ‘This is what I'm doing, and I'm doing it.' I didn't care if two people showed up — it was something I was doing.”
The event on Feb. 8 drew more than two people. About 150 friends, family members, neighbors and officials packed the council chambers in the Carnegie Borough Building to remember Melissa Ann Bowers.
Bowers, 36, of Sheraden, was stabbed to death Feb. 8, 2012, by ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Maloy in a domestic incident inside Maloy's home on Railroad Avenue.
Maloy pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in October 2012 and was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison.
The vigil's standing-room only crowd remembered a “beautiful,” “loving” mother of two who helped people in need.
“She was very loving and caring,” said Rich “Butchie” Bowers, Melissa's brother. “She always looked out for the best for me. I was at a point in my life where I was trying to do that for her, and this tragic thing happened.”
Melissa Bowers graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with two degrees: one in multimedia and Web design and the other in digital design.
As a member of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians District 11, she put her design background to good use as a member of the St. Patrick's Day Parade Designer Button Committee for more than 10 years.
More than that, however, she was a mother to two children: Brittany, 15, and Brenden, 6,
“Her children were her life,” Colleen Bowers said.
Andi Long, whose daughter was friends with Brittany Bowers, said she became friends with Melissa shortly after moving into the same neighborhood.
“We weren't bar buddies, we weren't hangout buddies, we were daughter buddies,” Long said. “Our daughters did everything together.”
Long said Bowers would always try to cheer up people when they had bad days.
“I know in her heart that she would want everybody to be happy,” Long said.
Colleen Bowers said her daughter was taking her caring nature a step further by planning to become a nurse.
While Friday night's vigil focused on Melissa's life, Colleen Bowers also read the victim's impact statements she and Brittany wrote for Maloy's sentencing because she didn't want them “buried in court documents.”
At times struggling through tears, Bowers described the pain in her life since her daughter's murder.
“This is the most heart-wrenching heartache a mother and father have to deal with,” Bowers said. “There is no excuse in life, drunk or sober, for anyone to take the life of another human being as Jeffrey Maloy did to my daughter. It was brutal, it was horrific, and till the day I die and go beyond, I will always have that pain with me.”
In addition to Bowers, Mary Volkar, a trauma specialist from the Center for Victims and Violence, spoke about the problem of domestic violence and the impact of domestic violence homicides on families.
“You came here tonight because you care,” Volkar said. “Please continue to care for the Bowers family. Say Melissa's name out loud and tell your favorite memories. Send notes and cards to the family. They need to hear it.”
Carnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek also spoke at the vigil.
Colleen Bowers thanked Carnegie officials and family friends for their help since Melissa's murder.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians helped to raise money for Melissa's funeral, and family and friends also started a fund at PNC Bank for Melissa's children, the Brittany & Brenden Fund. Thousands of dollars already have been raised for the fund.
Colleen Bowers said she plans to remember her daughter every Feb. 8 with a vigil, even if she does it alone.
“She was a beautiful girl,” Bowers said. “(She) just was with the wrong people.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.