A woman who drove three and a half miles in the wrong direction on U.S. 17 in Stafford County before smashing into another vehicle and killing a man was convicted of involuntary manslaughter Tuesday in Stafford Circuit Court.
Bianca A. Bowman, 31, of Arlington, was convicted following a daylong bench trial in front of Judge Charles Sharp. The case had originally been scheduled for a three-day jury trial, but both sides agreed to let Sharp decide the matter.
Bowman, who had no prior criminal record, will face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when she is sentenced May 23.
A key witness in Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen’s case Tuesday was Marcus McDonald, who testified that he and his wife were on their way home shortly after midnight on Oct. 15, 2017, when he saw a Honda SUV turning the wrong way onto U.S. 17 from Goldvein Road in Fauquier County.
McDonald said he made a quick U-turn and headed south in the proper lanes in an effort to get the attention of Bowman, who by now was in Stafford heading south in the northbound lanes.
The evidence showed that McDonald flashed his lights and blew his horn in an effort to get the driver’s attention. He also called 911 and watched as at least three northbound vehicles maneuvered out of the SUV’s path.
But near the crest of a hill in the area of Richlands Road in the Hartwood area of Stafford, Bowman’s vehicle ran head-on into an Audi sedan carrying three people from Bunker Hill, W.Va. The three were on their way home after spending the evening at Kings Dominion.
The driver, 23-year-old Luke D. Pollard, died at the scene. His younger brother, Trevor Pollard, suffered a traumatic brain injury and is permanently disabled. Luke Pollard’s fiancée, Madison Eggleton, was riding in the front seat and suffered relatively minor injuries.
Bowman’s husband was intoxicated and lying in the back seat of the Honda at the time of the crash, according to testimony in the trial. Bowman, who had no alcohol in her system, said she was the designated driver that night.
Olsen said in his closing arguments that Bowman was “oblivious” to the road signs and other indications that she was going the wrong way. He said her attempts to blame the road and her GPS for her confusion were flawed.
“It’s not the road’s fault. It’s not the GPS’ fault. It’s Ms. Bowman’s fault,” Olsen said.
Defense attorney Peter Greenspun argued that the evidence against Bowman did not rise to the level of a felony. He said there was no alcohol, texting or racing involved and that she simply made a terrible mistake that she didn’t realize until it was too late.
Judge Sharp said he found portions of Bowman’s testimony “incredible” and said her view of the proper southbound lanes was unobstructed. He said that factors such as all the other traffic was heading the other way, the position of the signs she was passing and the fact that she could see cars heading south in the proper lanes were things that should have alerted her.
“One can be blind to all those red flags only to a point,” Sharp said. “No reasonable person could have disregarded all those red flags.”
Sharp allowed Bowman to remain free on bond pending her sentencing. She was ordered to do no driving.