Life for Amanda Bowditch Woman sentenced for her part in the
Life for Amanda Bowditch
Woman sentenced for her part in the murder of Justin Barnard
Nineteen-year-old Amanda N. Sickels Bowditch ?the fourth and final person convicted in the murder of Justin Barnard ?has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court Judge Edward O’Farrell handed down the sentence late Tuesday afternoon after hearing two hours of emotional family speeches and expert psychological testimony and one hour of deliberation in the New Philadelphia court.
‘As I said in the cases of the two young men, everything in me screams not to impose the maximum punishment because you are young and because others are responsible,?he said. ‘But what other punishment would be deserved if not the maximum? There is no other punishment except the maximum to be imposed.?P> The Barnard family obviously was pleased with the sentence. A candlelight vigil was planned for Tuesday night at both the home where Barnard was murdered 342 2nd St. NW, New Philadelphia and the bridge near New Towne Mall where his body was dumped into the Tuscarawas River last September.
Before the sentence was announced, however, various family members made their final, gut-wrenching statements to the court. With tears streaming down her face, Amanda Bowditch watched and listened to each person as he or she spoke.
Barnard’s mother, Patricia Barnard Stoller of New Philadelphia, said when investigators asked her who could have done this to her son, she offered up the names of Amanda Sickels Bowditch and her husband Chad Bowditch. She told O’Farrell how Amanda was an active participant in the stabbing of her son and helped clean up and cover up the crime.
She then turned her attention to the girl her son loved. She asked the teenager if she still can hear Barnard begging for his life. Stoller said Amanda wrote in her diary ‘that you just finished your first kill. How proud your family must be of you.?P> Stoller said Amanda professed to have followed Wicca and then changed to Satanism.
‘Let the devil have you, that’s about all you’re good for,’ Stoller continued. ‘You know, Amanda, Justin loved you more than you will ever be able to understand. He was always concerned for you. He was always there for you. He was worried sick for you. And this is how you treat such a beautiful, precious gift you bludgeon it to death.’
Stoller said she hoped Amanda would succeed some day in taking her own life as she has tried to do in the past. Stoller told Amanda that having a hard life is no reason to kill someone. She then showed her an enlargement of a snapshot of Justin and Amanda in 2002.
Barnard’s father, Michael Barnard of California, recalled his son’s relationship with Amanda. He then explained how Amanda introduced his son to the other three killers ?Chad Bowditch, Justin Stephan and Diane Dinkelmann.
‘His love for the simple things in life compelled him to take on lost causes, like this one, and consider her a friend,’ he said sadly. ‘This is how you respond to the loving, kind friendship my son gave to you. The reality of my son’s torturous death is now my reality, forced upon me by your mother’s neglect and your grandmother’s inability to get you the help you needed to keep you from acting out your hatred on my son.’
Barnard’s aunt, Lori VanHofwegen of California, called Amanda and her three compatriots ‘less than human psychopaths.’ She criticized the Sickels family for blaming everyone else for Amanda’s predicament.
‘She is a menace to the human race,’ VanHofwegen said. ‘He gave this cold-blooded murder a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, for 12 years.
‘Look into my blue eyes, can you see Justin’s pain?’ she asked Amanda. ‘Can you hear him saying ‘why are you doing this? I never did anything to hurt you. Stop them. Help me.’ You have no heart, no soul, no conscience. You are a coward.’
After the Barnard family was finished speaking, defense attorney Kenneth Welch began his presentation of evidence in Amanda Bowditch’s defense. He was quick to point out that he did not intend to excuse his client’s conduct, but he wanted O’Farrell to have a complete picture of how Amanda Bowditch came to appear before him.
Lisa Moore, Amanda’s great-aunt, explained how Amanda never was taken care of properly and how she often lived in homes with no heat, no food, no running water or electricity. She described how Amanda was verbally, physically and sexually abused as a small child and that her mother, Debra Mathias, did nothing to stop it.
Moore said Amanda Bowditch was sexually abused again at age 11. About that time she also began being hospitalized for mental problems. She was taken away from Debra and placed with Debra’s mother, Linda Sickels.
‘That was the equivalent of tossing her out of the frying pan and into the fire,’ Moore said, who continued to criticize the lack of parenting skills by nearly everyone who had any contact with her great-niece.
Moore said she and other family members were unsuccessful in getting Amanda out of the situation. She was wracked with sobs as she described her regret in being unable to get custody of Amanda ‘to rescue her from her hellish life.’
Dr. Daniel Davis, a forensic psychologist from Columbus who completed an extensive competency and sanity evaluation of Amanda, explained his findings. He said the young woman’s primary diagnosis is one of borderline personality disorder, one of the most severe personality disorders. He said the condition often manifests itself in people who have suffered severe abuse or neglect.
He said she also attempted to malinger to fake mental illness to avoid the consequences of her actions.
‘Amanda appears to be the kind of person who can be easily manipulated,’ he observed. ‘She has free will and choice, but she can be wound up and pointed in a direction. She has a need to please. Her development is at a very primitive level. Her psychological problems are staggering.’
Welch said she has attempted suicide numerous times. He said she told a counselor when she was 11 that she wanted to kill herself but she didn’t know how.
‘The circumstances of this case are beyond tragic,’ Welch said. ‘The circumstances of Amanda’s life are beyond tragic. She was so broken there was no putting her back together. You can’t repair the damage done to her over all these years.’
Amanda’s mother, Debra Mathias, spoke tearfully as she faced possibly never seeing her daughter outside prison walls. She said she did all she could for her daughter, but she could not afford to keep her in a mental health facility where she belonged.
‘I can feel your pain and suffering,’ she said haltingly. ‘I am very sorry. They lost a son, I’m losing my daughter. She does have a heart. Justin was a kind, loving person. She loved him as well.’
‘It’s a nightmare we can’t wake up from either. We are suffering as well. She’s my little girl. I love her as any mother would love her child. I never turned my back on her, and I will never turn my back on her.’
Finally Amanda Bowditch was given the opportunity to speak.
‘I can’t give your son back to you,’ she said. ‘I am very sorry for what I’ve done. I know there are times he cared for me and loved me. I don’t know why we did what we did.’
In handing down his sentence, O’Farrell addressed Amanda’s situation.
‘You are the one who participated in the brutal death of Justin Barnard,’ he said. ‘But there are co-conspirators to this crime in this courtroom and outside of this courtroom. The evidence is overwhelming and needs to be recognized. ‘You have been a victim as well. You have not been given what every child deserves. This is not the way we as parents should treat our children.’
Chad Bowditch and Stephan, both 19, received sentences of life in prison without parole last month for their parts in Barnard’s death. Dinkelmann is serving 21 years to life in the Ohio Reformatory for Women at Marysville. Her first parole hearing will be held in August 2026.
According to investigators, the four defendants, who lived at Dinkelmann’s 2nd St. house, killed Barnard in the basement Sept. 20. His body was found Sept. 27 in the Tuscarawas River at New Philadelphia.