MORROW COUNTY — Police are still searching for the husband of a woman who was shot on Tuesday, Dec. 15, in Heppner and later died at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, according to officials.

The victim’s husband, David Bowles, 43, is a person of interest in the investigation, and police say he should be considered armed and dangerous.

“Since the time of the shooting, he hasn’t been located or found yet,” Morrow County District Attorney Justin Nelson said. “So he’s somebody I know law enforcement is trying to talk to to find out the whole process and what happened. We’ve interviewed many other witnesses, but we still need to talk to David Bowles.”

The victim, Marlen Bowles, was Life Flighted to OHSU in critical condition where she later died with her family at her bedside, according to Nelson.

The Oregon State Police took the lead in the investigation at the request of the Morrow County Sheriff’s Office partly because David Bowles is the brother of Morrow County Undersheriff John Bowles, according to Lt. Melissa Ross, a public information officer from the sheriff’s office. Ross said the investigation was handed to OSP out of concern for appearance and perception, not that there could be a potential conflict of interest.

“As my general understanding, it’s really not considered a conflict of interest unless it was like one of our employees,” she said, adding the undersheriff was not involved in the investigation.

Nelson added that staffing and resources also played a role in the decision to hand the case to OSP. He said the Morrow County Sheriff’s Office is still assisting OSP in the investigation, providing available detectives and resources for the agency to keep track of minor details while search warrants are carried out.

Nelson also said he believes more people know about Bowles’ whereabouts than have approached investigators, and that they are neglecting to disclose information because they assume law enforcement already know about it.

“I’ve even heard off-hand from guys who come to me and say, ‘Oh, so and so talked to so and so and they know that this is what happened,’” Nelson said. “And I say, ‘Well gosh, I know law enforcement has not heard that.’ And sometimes these rumors are true, but people always assume that law enforcement is aware.”

He is urging anybody with information about Bowles’ location to contact Oregon State Police, as any piece of information can help.

“Any small thing can change a case,” he said. “It can find a culprit or expand who we need to interview. And it might seem small to people, but every little bit (helps).”

Court records show that a David Lee Bowles, born in 1977 and a longtime Heppner resident, has a list of criminal charges and convictions spanning more than two decades in multiple counties, including Morrow, Washington, Wasco, Yamhill, Hood River and Umatilla.

In 1995, he was sentenced to 39 months in prison for attempted murder. And in 2007, he was convicted of second-degree burglary and fourth-degree assault.

Nelson said he could not confirm nor deny Bowles’ criminal history at this time, although the man he said law enforcement is seeking has the same full name, year of birth and longtime residency as the Bowles whose history is detailed through the records.

Nelson said Marlen Bowles has one 14-year-old son and two children over the age of 18, but he was unsure if any of them were David Bowles’ children. He added that she was well known in the community and worked at the Gateway Cafe in Heppner.

Bowles was last seen driving a brown Chevrolet Impala with Oregon license plate URG552. He is a 5-foot-6, 180-pound white male with graying hair and blue eyes.

Police are urging residents to not confront him, but to call 911 or OSP Dispatch at 800-442-2068 and reference OSP case No. SP200348879.


Reporter primarily covering government and public safety in Umatilla County.

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