LOUISA — A Louisa County woman has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of her boyfriend, whose body was found in a well in Louisa, and of her second husband, who was buried in the couple’s backyard in Amelia County.
Ulisa M. Chavers, 61, is accused of killing Reginal Cody Bowles, whose remains were found in March 2009 in an unused well on his Louisa property, and also Clent Chavers, who was buried years earlier, wrapped in a bed sheet, outside the couple’s former home.
Authorities declined Tuesday to discuss the suspected cause of death for either man.
But Douglas Owsley, a renowned forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution who examined Clent Chavers’ remains, said he found evidence of multiple fractures in the face and cranium that he believes occurred at the time of his death and before he was buried.
“There’s evidence of physical violence involving the head,” said Owsley, reached by phone Tuesday.
Chavers has told authorities she buried her husband after he died of natural causes in 1994 and that she later used a shovel to remove his skull and then dumped it at a landfill.
Even though the head was missing, four fractured pieces of skull were left behind when Ulisa Chavers removed his head, Owsley said. He declined to speculate on what might have caused the fractures.
The state medical examiner’s office has been unable to determine the cause or manner of death for Bowles or Clent Chavers.
According to autopsy results, Bowles’ remains contained a potentially harmful amount of benztropine, a prescription drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease and other conditions, authorities have said.
After Tuesday’s news conference, Louisa sheriff’s Maj. Donald A. Lowe said he believes the drug was a “contributing factor.” He declined to elaborate, except to say, “The poisoning aspect has been discussed and talked about and hasn’t been completely ruled out.”
At the news conference, authorities announced more than 20 new felony charges against Chavers in Louisa and Amelia.
She already is serving a five-year term at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women for convictions on charges including one of concealing Bowles’ body in a well.
Last month, a Louisa grand jury indicted Chavers on the murder charge in Bowles’ death and on 10 counts of embezzlement. The charges were sealed until Monday, when Louisa investigators interviewed Chavers at the Sheriff’s Office and informed her of the new charges.
“She was fairly upset, especially with me during the interview, because I was the one who broke the news that she was indicted in Louisa County,” sheriff’s Lt. Howard Porter said at the news conference.
On Tuesday, a grand jury in Amelia indicted Chavers on the murder charge in the death of her second husband, Clent Chavers, and on nine charges of larceny and one count of defiling a dead body.
Commenting on the embezzlement and larceny charges, Porter said that beginning in 1994, Chavers collected about $131,000 in Social Security money from the two men after they died.
Bowles’ sons had not heard from their father since Christmas 2006, and one of the sons reported him missing to Louisa authorities late in 2008. After Bowles disappeared, Chavers told several stories to detectives and to members of Bowles’ family, according to previous court testimony.
Those stories included, among others, that Bowles was doing charity work in the Gulf Coast area; that he had set off for Sturgis, S.D., for a motorcycle rally; that he was living in Montana with no running water or electricity; and that he had bought the property in Montana using the name of a militia.
After investigators found Bowles’ body, Chavers told them he had died in spring 2007 of natural causes and that he had wanted to be buried on his property, according to testimony.
She said she kept the body in a garage for more than a year, wrapped in a tarp, and moved it to the well after authorities began investigating and she got scared.
Chavers’ attorney, Mike Caudill, declined Tuesday to comment on the new charges.
Amelia Commonwealth’s Attorney Lee R. Harrison agreed to allow Louisa Commonwealth’s Attorney Thomas A. Garrett Jr. and his deputy, Rusty McGuire, prosecute the case against Chavers in Amelia as well as the one in Louisa because they all agreed that approach would be more efficient.
Chavers is scheduled to appear Aug. 16 in Louisa Circuit Court and on Sept. 23 in Amelia Circuit Court.
Reed Williams reports for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.