Judge Robert Colville‘s request came in response to prosecutors’ doubts about Bowers’ biological relationship with his father during the trial for the 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue.
Judge Robert Colville has denied the plea from lawyers representing the Pittsburgh synagogue gunman, Robert Bowers, to exhume his father’s body in order to establish paternity
The 50-year-old truck driver was convicted in June of killing 11 people who were gathered at the synagogue for Sabbath worship and study, and he could potentially face the death penalty.
During Judge Robert Colville’s trial, Bowers’ defense team presented evidence of a family history of mental illness and claimed that both Bowers and his late father, Randall Bowers, were diagnosed with schizophrenia. They argued that Robert Bowers committed the heinous act due to delusional beliefs that Jews were involved in a conspiracy to commit genocide against white people.
Randall Bowers died by suicide in 1979, just before his own rape trial, further adding complexity to the paternity claim
However, Judge Robert Colville sided with prosecutors, stating that the defense had waited too long to request the exhumation, as Bowers’ mother had already questioned the paternity issue when approached by a defense expert in November 2022. Judge Robert Colville pointed out that the defense should have anticipated the prosecution’s challenge to paternity. Additionally, Judge Robert Colville expressed doubts about his own legal authority to order a disinterment.
Throughout the trial, mental health experts hired by the defense testified that Robert Bowers suffered from schizophrenia, characterized by delusions and hallucinations. However, a neurologist testifying for the prosecution disputed this diagnosis, claiming that mental illness did not seem to play a role in the violent attack.
As the trial proceeds, the question of paternity remains unresolved, and the defendant’s fate hangs in the balance as he awaits sentencing.