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Joseph Bowen, the apparent ringleader in the hostage-taking at...

By ROBERT ZAUSNER

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Joseph Bowen, the apparent ringleader in the hostage-taking at Graterford State Prison, got in trouble at a young age and later was convicted of murder in the slayings of a policeman and two jail officials.

Bowen, 35, of Philadelphia, was arrested for minor crimes as a teenager and in his 20s was convicted of burglary and assault.

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In 1970, while out of prison on parole for only three days, Bowen gunned down a Philadelphia patrolman as the officer approached a car he believed was stolen.

Police said Bowen told them he shot the 16-year veteran of the police force because he didn't want to go back to jail.

Bowen broke into laughter when a jury convicted him of second-degree murder, a crime which carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years.

Bowen was sent to Holmesburg prison in Philadelphia, where officials still vividly recall what was probably his most brutal, cold-blooded act.

On May 31, 1973, saying they wanted to discuss a proposal to hold Muslim prayer meetings, Bowen and a fellow prisoner were granted a meeting with Holmesburg Deputy Warden Robert Fromhold.

But when the three men were alone, an aide to the superintendent at Holmesburg recalled Thursday, Bowen and his accomplice turned on Fromhold with knives and stabbed him repeatedly. Fromhold died.

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Warden Patrick Curran tried to help Fromhold but he too was killed, and Holmesburg Capt. Leroy Taylor was wounded by the knife-wielding inmates.

The other prisoner involved in the attack, which an assistant district attorney contended was premeditated, was Frederick Burton, who also was serving time for killing a policeman, the aide said.

Bowen was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.

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