Horror in the French Quarter

The first crime scene was merely gruesome: Zackery Bowen, a 28-year old New Orleanian, lay bloodied and limp last Tuesday after leaping from the rooftop terrace of a posh French Quarter hotel. But the second was unfathomable. "I had to take my own life," read a note in the dead man's pocket, "to pay for the one I took." Bowen went on to write that he had "calmly" strangled his girlfriend, Adriane "Addie" Hall, twelve days earlier. But he hadn't stopped there. When the cops arrived at the couple's apartment, they found Hall's charred head in a pot on the stove, her partially seasoned limbs on turkey-roasting pans in the oven and carefully chopped carrots still piled on the kitchen counter.

Even in a city that prizes its gory past--and currently shoulders one of the nation's highest murder rates--Hall's slaying will likely rank among the most savage on record. Why did Bowen snap? His confession, scrawled across eight pages of Hall's journal, doesn't harp on Hurricane Katrina. Police insist that he was not a cannibal (an autopsy showed no sign of human flesh in his system). And although Bowen and Hall lived above one of the Quarter's many voodoo shops, neither had apparently dabbled in black magic. In the end, the homicide was hellish, but its back story was humble. Two troubled young lovers had gotten caught up in yet another spat--and one had succumbed, at last, to his demons.

A part-time bartender, Zack Bowen was known in the Quarter for his strapping good looks and easy charm. Addie Hall was artsier, writing poetry and talking religion until dawn. The night the hurricane hit, Hall offered Bowen a place to stay. They soon fell in love. Both, it seems, had baggage. Bowen had served as a military policeman in Kosovo and Iraq, where, according to co-workers quoted in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, an incident involving a child had "messed him over." Hall was molested as a young girl, friends say, and later suffered through a string of abusive relationships. After Katrina, Bowen and Hall refused to leave the Quarter, fashioning fly swatters from plastic plates and mixing drinks for passersby. But the couple fought constantly. On Oct. 4, according to landlord Leo Watermeier, a furious Bowen claimed that Hall, who had signed the lease alone, was "kicking [him] out." Moments later, Watermeier ran into Hall. "I caught him cheating on me," she said. Hall was not seen alive again.

With its nocturnal denizens and dead-end aura, the Quarter has long attracted "people on the edge," says local doyenne JoAnn Clevenger. "Over the past 50 years, I've seen plenty of them spiral out." After killing Hall, Bowen went on a bender--"good food, good drugs, good strippers," he wrote--but was haunted by his "entire lack of remorse." Earlier this month, he cleaned the tub where he'd dismembered his girlfriend and set the AC to 60 degrees to delay the rotting of her remains. The night he died, a hotel surveillance camera captured Bowen walking to the edge of the terrace, looking over, then turning away, again and again. After one last drink, he threw himself over.