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Poison expert indicted on murder charges in his wife's fatal poisoning

A Minnesota doctor faces first-degree and second-degree murder charges after his wife died by a poison he had recently researched.
Betty Bowman is pictured with her corgi.
Posted at 8:06 PM, Jan 09, 2024

A former Mayo Clinic medical resident and poison specialist has been indicted on first and second-degree murder charges in the fatal poisoning of his wife.

A Minnesota grand jury charged Dr. Connor Fitzgerald Bowman with first-degree murder premeditated with intent and second-degree murder with intent on Jan. 4, adding on to his initial charge of just the latter count, per a statement from the Olmsted County Attorney's Office.

Connor was arrested on the second-degree murder charge in October over the death of his wife Betty Bowman, a 32-year-old pharmacist who also worked at Mayo Clinic.

Rochester Police Department

Investigators said Betty was hospitalized on Aug. 16 with symptoms initially thought to be of food poisoning. A criminal complaint notes she told a friend that morning she believed a smoothie she had the night prior with Connor caused her to become ill. 

However, her dehydration and stomach distress rapidly deteriorated into cardiac issues and fluid in her lungs, according to a criminal complaint against Connor. Betty's organs then began to fail, and she died in the hospital four days after being admitted.

An online obituary published on Aug. 22 states Betty died following a "sudden onset autoimmune and infectious illness," and authorities allege Connor added that point.

He allegedly repeated this sentiment to doctors and others while Betty was still alive, saying his wife died after a fight with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH. The rare inflammatory syndrome makes certain blood cells build and attack each other and can result in multi-organ failure, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. However, Betty's tests for the illness came back inconclusive.

The medical examiner's office notified police on Aug. 21 after determining the circumstances surrounding Betty's death were suspicious. 

Its suspicions included Connor's alleged order to have Betty "cremated immediately" based on his argument that her death was natural — an order the medical examiner's office halted. The criminal complaint also alleges the 30-year-old attempted to cancel Betty's autopsy and asked investigators if the toxicology analysis would be more in-depth than what was done at the hospital.

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Upon executing their first search warrant and seizing his devices, detectives found Connor — who was a poison specialist answering calls for the University of Kansas at the time — had been researching colchicine, a drug used to treat gout. The complaint states neither he nor any other of his co-workers had received any calls regarding this particular poison.

His browsing history also showed searches including"internet browsing history: can it be used in court?" and "Police track package delivery" as well as the lethal dosage rate for certain substances. Six days before Betty's hospitalization, the complaint states he converted her weight to kilograms and multiplied it by 0.8. This conversion — 0.8 mg/kg — gets the lethal dosage rate for colchicine.

Betty's toxicology results showed colchicine was present in blood and urine samples taken from her the day she was admitted to the hospital, though no doctor diagnosed her with gout or prescribed the substance to her. This led the medical examiner's office to determine Betty died of colchicine toxicity in the manner of homicide, the complaint states. 

The medical examiner's office said it received a call from a woman who said the Bowmans were having "marital issues and were talking about a divorce following infidelity and a deteriorating relationship." Another woman allegedly said Connor, who Betty had said was in debt, said he was going to get a $500,000 life insurance payout as a result of his wife's death. Authorities later found a $450,000 bank deposit receipt in Connor's home following his arrest.

GoFundMe page raising funds for Betty's mother's legal fees, bills and other costs remembers the young pharmacist as "a light to so many people." It's raised nearly $13,500 of a $15,000 goal.

Connor is now being held in the Olmsted County Adult Detention Center on $2 million bail. He is expected to be arraigned on the grand jury's indictment on Jan. 16, 2024. If convicted on the first-degree premeditated murder charge, he faces life in prison without the possibility of release.