Man Who Murdered Orthodox Priest Being Considered for Parole in California

Man Who Murdered Orthodox Priest Being Considered for Parole in California


Edward Lee Bowman brutally murdered Father John Karastamatis, an Orthodox priest, at Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in Santa Cruz, California in 1985.

Bowman, who received a prison sentence of 25 years to life, is up for parole in February — and Fr. Karastamatis’ family is once again collecting signatures to protest the possible early release of their father’s killer, who has remained unrepentant.

A recent report in the Santa Cruz Sentinel recounts what happened during the original crime.

Father John Karastamatis, 47, was born in Greece and came to Santa Cruz as a visiting priest. Sentinel archives described him as the heart of the Greek community in Santa Cruz and a vibrant man who helped establish Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church on Church Street in Santa Cruz.

On May 19, 1985 he unexpectedly encountered Anna Bowman, his volunteer secretary, and her husband, Edward Bowman burglarizing the church.

The Bowmans were armed with a knife and fish wacker, a club used by fishermen. They struggled with Karastamatis. Karastamatis was stabbed several times and beaten with the fish wacker. The Bowmans left him bleeding near the church’s office.

Foti Karastamatis, John Karastamatis’ son, found him dead hours later.

“He put up a fight for his life, and unfortunately he was overwhelmed,” Foti Karastamatis said this week.

He described his father as a “very loved man,” and a man of God.

“It’s just unbelievable what happened to him.”

Karastamatis’ homicide initially baffled investigators, but a probe eventually led to the Bowmans. When detectives arrived at their door on River Street in Santa Cruz in December 1985, Anna Bowman fired shots at police through the door. She fatally shot herself that night.

Find out more, including how you can send a protest letter to the parole board, on the “Justice for Father John Karastamatis” Facebook page. More information, including an interview with Foti Karastamatis, will be posted on the OCN site soon.

Please note: the deadline to submit letters is February 1.

About author

Seraphim Danckaert

Seraphim Danckaert is Director of Mission Advancement at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary. He holds an M.Div. from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and is a Ph.D. candidate in theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.