MIDDLEBURG — Gregory Bowersox treasures the time he spent with his 17-year-old son, Anthony, in the last several months of his young life that ended July 31 after he was fatally shot by another teen.
Estranged from Anthony’s mother for the past three years, Bowersox, 57, suffered a stroke in March and his only child moved into his Middleburg home to help him recuperate.
“They were two peas in a pod,” said Stacy Smith, Bowersox’s sister and Anthony’s aunt, describing the father-son bond that was developing.
Gregory Bowersox’s eyes filled with tears as he cradled a framed photograph taken of him and his son following the stroke which has mostly affected his speech.
He shared the visual memory as friends and family spoke out against last week’s decision by Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch to charge the 17-year-old male shooter as a juvenile with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and unlawful possession of a firearm by a minor. The Daily Item is not identifying the shooter due to his age and the court’s designation of him as a juvenile.
Piecuch said the investigation by state police at Selinsgrove determined the shooter was negligent in his handling of the firearm but there was no evidence that his actions supported a charge of homicide.
‘Nothing makes sense’
Several members of Anthony’s family and his friends still have questions about the events that led to the shooting and the county prosecutor’s decision not to charge the 17-year-old shooter as an adult, said the slain boy’s aunt, Wendy Apple.
“Nothing makes sense,” she said. “We just don’t feel like we have the full story.”
Under Pennsylvania law, criminal cases involving juveniles are confidential.
The following details of the shooting of Anthony Bowersox were obtained from a search warrant The Daily Item obtained.
On the afternoon of July 28, Bowersox drove to a wooded area off Palmer Lane in West Perry Township, Snyder County, in his father’s pickup truck with his older half-sister, Julana Strauser, sitting in the passenger seat.
There they met up with the unidentified shooter who arrived in a utility vehicle.
The trio smoked marijuana and afterward, the teen retrieved a revolver from his vehicle and returned to the truck. Sitting in the back seat directly behind Anthony, the teen told state police that he didn’t see any bullets in the chamber and as he checked to see if the safety was engaged, pulled the trigger, firing a single round into the back of Anthony’s head behind his right ear.
Apple is dumbfounded that the shooter would be so reckless, particularly since his social media accounts show a young man familiar with guns as a hunter.
‘Had a feeling’
Dalton Mattern said he always had a bad feeling about the teen now accused of killing his best friend.
“I just had a feeling something was going to happen,” said Mattern, 17, of Beavertown, who described the unidentified teen as someone who stirred up trouble. “I asked Anthony, ‘Why are you letting him get in-between us.’”
Anthony’s response was typical, Dalton said. “You worry too much.”
Another friend, Jordan Snook, of Shermans Dale, doesn’t understand why the shooter would aim a weapon — loaded or not — at Anthony’s head.
“Anthony was a good person and got along with everybody,” he said.
Dalton has been replaying several of the many videos he has on his phone of Anthony singing and mugging for the camera.
“Anthony loved to create videos. He wanted to make music in the worst way,” said Dalton, who views the clips several times a day. “It gives me reassurance that I won’t forget him.”
Tara Mattern said her son and Anthony “were like brothers” and when she heard of his death “it was like losing one of my kids.”
It isn’t the first time the Mattern family has been ripped apart by a tragic fatal shooting.
Tara Mattern’s oldest son, Brandon Weader, was 17 in March 2006 when he accidentally fired a 12-gauge shotgun and killed his friend, Michael D. Houtz, 21, of Beavertown.
Charged as an adult with felony aggravated assault, Weader pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to six months to one year in county jail.
“My son was charged as an adult and it was an accident,” she said, questioning why the young man accused of illegally possessing a handgun and pointing it directly behind Anthony’s head isn’t facing more serious charges.
Piecuch said the appropriate charges were filed against the shooter of Bowersox based on the evidence and there was no legal option to file charges in adult court.
“First and foremost, this is a tragedy and my heart goes out to the family,” he said. “I can understand their feelings, but we have to charge the evidence and I’m confident the police did an excellent job running down leads and rumors.”
Piecuch said he met with relatives of Bowersox before filing the charges in juvenile court last week.
“My door remains open if they have additional questions,” he said.
Gregory Bowersox knocked on an empty bedroom door in his home before entering. Moments later he returned to the living room holding a white paper bearing a blue handprint taken from his son before he was removed from life support at Hershey Medical Center on July 31.
Smith said the family was always cautioned by Anthony to knock before entering his bedroom so they’ve continued to honor the request.
“I go into his room and hold his comforter,” she said. “I can still smell him.”
Besides keeping his son’s room the way he left it, Bowersox, a man of faith, is comforted by a talk that his son had with David Eia, an ordained minister, weeks before his death.
“I was grateful I could have that conversation,” said Eia who was able to convey to the family that Anthony had a relationship with God.
Apple said she and her family view Anthony’s time with them “as a gift” but wishes they had more of it to share.