Crime & Courts

Rosewood murder suspect mental evaluation done. Judge to decide if she stands trial

‘Her house is full of blood’: Hear 911 call that started a Columbia murder investigation

On August 9, Peggy Bowers returned from the grocery store to the house of Joan Staub's and found the door open. Inside she found Staub's body. Here is the 911 call from the incident.
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On August 9, Peggy Bowers returned from the grocery store to the house of Joan Staub's and found the door open. Inside she found Staub's body. Here is the 911 call from the incident.

A team of mental health professionals and a doctor completed the competency evaluation of a woman accused of killing a beloved Rosewood neighbor.

Authorities charged Peggy Bowers with killing Joan Staub in September. Bowers was a frequent house guest of Staub, and both were well known in the Rosewood community. In November, the court ordered a competency evaluation, which would determine if Bowers is mentally fit to stand trial.

Results of competency evaluations are withheld from the public. At a hearing, a judge, after being presented with the findings, will decide whether the criminal case can move forward, which would mean Bowers could plead guilty or face a jury, according to Deputy Solicitor April Sampson. That hearing is yet to be scheduled.

In August, Bowers, 68, called 911 saying she found Staub covered in blood on her bed. Coroner Gary Watts said Staub died from blunt force trauma to the head. A month later the Columbia Police Department arrested Bowers and charged her with murder after finding her DNA at the crime scene, according to the department.

In October, neighbors and friends of Bowers told The State she was known to be frequently homeless. Those who knew Bowers well said she got help from MIRCI, an organization that assists people with mental illness.

A shadow of horror and disbelief darkened Rosewood in the wake of Staub’s killing and the accusation against Bowers. Residents of the south side Columbia neighborhood questioned how someone as kind as Staub could be killed and whether Bowers could be that violent.

Joan around Christmas time in 2017.
Joan Staub during Christmas 2017. She loved jewelry, her family said. Here she wears two brooches and two necklaces. Provided by Angel Sellers

Neighbors knew Staub for taking in the homeless and helping people with their yard work.

“It didn’t matter what trial and tribulation she was going through,” Betty Chabot, Staub’s sister, told The State in October. “She never put that on anybody else. … She went on and just helped people.”

Bowers could be volatile at times, according to community members, but was known by many in Rosewood as an eccentric resident often in need rides or a place to stay.

Many believed Staub and Bowers were friends, though Staub’s family questioned how close the two were.

The completion of the testing feels like a step towards justice, according to Angela Sellers, Staub’s sister.

“I believe she (Bowers) was in her right mind,” Sellers said. “She knew what she was doing.”

Police are still investigating, according to Jennifer Timmons, a Columbia Police Department spokesperson.

Peggy Bowers on her birthday in 2016, around the time she moved in with Joan Staub
Peggy Bowers on her birthday in 2016, the year she moved in with Joan Staub. Provided by Debbie McDaniel

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David Travis Bland won the South Carolina Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for community journalism. As The State’s crime, police and public safety reporter, he strives to inform communities about crimes that affect them and give deeper insight into victims, the accused and law enforcement. He studied history with a focus on the American South at the University of South Carolina.