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Antonio Nathaniel BONHAM





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 9, 1981
Date of arrest: 8 days after
Date of birth: February 6, 1960
Victim profile: Marie Jones McGowen, 62
Method of murder: Crushing by a car
Location: Harris County, Texas, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Texas on September 28, 1993


Antonio Nathaniel Bonham
Age: 33 (21)
Executed: Sept. 28, 1993
Education level: 9th grade

On the morning of July 9, 1981, Bonham forced business college teacher Marie Jones McGowen, 62, into the trunk of her car. After driving around for four hours, Bonham parked on an isolated stretch of road in southeast Houston, where he raped McGowen and left her for dead.

His attorney lamented after the trial that jurors did not consider evidence that Bonham was drunk at the time and showed remorse for the killing.


Antonio Nathanial Bonham kidnapped, robbed, raped, and killed Marie McGowen on the morning of July 9, 1981 in Houston, Texas.

On Sept. 28, 1993 Bonham was pronounced dead at 12:28 a.m., his death sentence carried out for the slaying of McGowen. The death penalty claimed another criminal as Bonham was the 69th convict executed since the law was reinstated in Texas.

McGowen, a 62-year-old keypunch instructor at Massey Business College, arrived at work before 7 a.m. as was customary.  Bonham, who intended only to steal her car, hit her over the head with a brick and threw her in the trunk.

After driving aimlessly around the city of Houston for several hours, Bonham stopped on a desolate section of Schurmier Rd.  in Southeast Houston.  Bonham then raped McGowen and let her go so she could get help for herself. When McGowen gave no response, Bonham tried to scare her by chasing her with the car.  Bonham ran over McGowen three times with the late-model sedan and fled the scene when he failed to get the vehicle out of a ditch.

Eleven hours after her abduction, McGowen’ abandoned car was found by Houston police.  They called her husband, John McGowen, to bring the vehicles’ spare keys.  He was the one to discover his wife’s mangled body pinned under the car.

Houston police arrested Bonham when a set of keys belonging to the homes of Bonham’s mother, father, and sister were found near the crime scene. Bonham’s fingerprints also matched those on the car.

Bonham had recently been paroled from a ten-year sentence for aggravated robbery and had only been free for five weeks.

Bonham admitted to the murder in a written confession.  He said the detective in charge promised him a life sentence rather than the death penalty if he gave a written confession. The defense used this written confession against the prosecution during the appeal trial. Mike Charleton, Bonham’s lawyer, fought by claiming that the admitted evidence of the confession was not voluntary but “the product of psychological coercion, deceit, fraud, and  trickery” violating Bonham’s fifth, sixth, and 14th amendments.

The appeal was revoked with the court finding the confession “voluntarily and freely made without compulsion or coercion, threats of promises…”  Bonham's execution was set for Sept. 28, 1993.

Up until Bonham’s execution, Charlton was litigating for Bonham’s life.  Charlton argued that jurors never considered Bonham’s young age of 21 or his drunken state at the time of the crime.  “It was really my (intention) never to harm the lady, but since I had been drinking heavily prior to this incident, the alcohol somehow took all control of me,” Bonham told police.

Unlike the executions preceding and following Bonham’s execution, few activists protested against Bonham’s death.  “I think that Tony’s case did not have the publicity like the other executions.  The lady was a well-known teacher, but it just did not get a great deal of attention,” said Attorney Mike Charlton.

On Sept. 28, 1993, Antonio Nathanial Bonham, age 33, was put to death by lethal injection.  He made no final statement.



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