[October 22nd, 2007] 10:30am
Below is an excellent piece written by Gregory Kane in today's Baltimore Sun. I encourage everyone to read it and try and grasp how many obstacles this city needs to overcome. If you have any thoughts on how I can raise awareness on this issue and pressure elected officials to take action, please email me via the Email Me link.

Thank you,
Anna Sowers

It's time to stop babying criminals
Gregory Kane

October 17, 2007 12:00 AM
This was supposed to be the week that Zach and Anna Sowers planned what they would do for their first wedding anniversary on Saturday.

Instead, Anna Sowers will spend that day where she's spent most of the past four months: sitting at her husband's hospital bed, hoping, praying that he'll come out of the coma he's been in. She'll be thinking about whether her husband will pull through. She'll be thinking about how to pay for her husband's mounting medical bills when the insurance runs out in a few months.

Early on the morning of June 2, Zach Sowers was walking to his Patterson Park home from a bar in Canton. Two men attacked him, with at least one stomping Zach Sowers as he lay in the street. Those two then ran to a car with two other men and sped away.

Perhaps "men" is not an accurate word in that last paragraph. Four males face attempted murder, robbery and other charges in the near-fatal beating of Zach Sowers. [Police and prosecutors say a computer trail of purchases made with Zach Sowers' stolen credit cards led them to the suspects.] Trayvon Ramos was 16 when he was charged; Wilburt Martin was 18; Eric L. Price was 16.

And Arthur Jeter was just 15 days away from his 18th birthday.

On Monday, Jeter was in a Baltimore Circuit Court. His attorney, public defender Jennifer Davis, tried to persuade Circuit Judge Roger W. Brown to kick Jeter's case back down to juvenile court, also known in Baltimore as the Land of Wrist-Slap Justice.

Davis, to her credit, did her job. She presented a compelling case for Jeter, giving Brown details about why he should be tried as a juvenile, not an adult. (Those of you who claim public defenders aren't "real lawyers" can learn a lesson from people like Davis.)

"He's functioning more as a teenager than an adult," Davis said. "Mentally, it would be better if he were returned to the juvenile system." Davis added that Jeter was a special-education student in school and is unable to read, which led him to drop out.

Jeter's brother, Davis continued, was killed four years ago for being a cooperating witness to a crime. Davis said Jeter has cooperated with police and given details about the attack on Zach Sowers. Davis said Jeter has been attacked while in jail for his cooperation and that his mother has received death threats. Davis mentioned several times that Jeter has expressed remorse about what happened to Zach Sowers.

Apparently, Brown didn't buy it; he refused to allow Jeter's case to be tried in juvenile court. And Anna Sowers darn well didn't buy it.

"I was thinking 'cry me a river' when [Davis] was stating that Jeter was remorseful," Anna Sowers told me in an e-mail. "I think the only thing he is remorseful about is that he was caught. ... Why didn't he call the cops later that night, if he was remorseful? Why did he willingly continue to hang out with Ramos that night, if he was remorseful? Why did he tag along and use Zach's credit cards, if he was remorseful?"

Anna Sowers is equally skeptical about whether a Baltimore jury will convict the four suspects. She reads the papers; she knows what Circuit Judge John M. Glynn told Sun reporter Gus Sentementes in July.

"Many of these jurors simply won't vote to find these kids guilty of violent crimes," Glynn said in Sentementes' July 17 story. "If the citizens want to know what the problem is, I suggest they look at themselves. ... They don't testify against criminals. And they don't vote to convict the guilty."

During an interview last week, Anna Sowers expressed her utter amazement at why Baltimoreans would act this way. But I think I know part of the reason.

About two weeks ago I saw a film about the Black Panther Party at the Maryland Institute College of Art. During a question-and-answer session afterward, one black man lamented the very existence of the new juvenile facility on Gay Street.

"They're locking up our babies," the man moaned about black youth in the juvenile system. (All of the suspects in Zach Sowers' beating are black.)

Ramos' court records from a carjacking incident in Elkton indicate he's over 6 feet tall and weighs 250 pounds. I got a look at Jeter on Monday. He appeared to be well over 6 feet tall and it's clear he's no welterweight, either.

These guys are not babies.

They're young adults, as are most juvenile offenders in the system. And some of them are vicious, cold-blooded killers. But Anna Sowers has a waning faith that 12 Baltimore jurors will see the youths who stomped her husband nearly to death - and those who are accessories - that way.

Some potential jurors may indeed see the three suspects who were juveniles when Zach Sowers was attacked as "babies" who need to be tried in juvenile court. Anna Sowers has a view more in line with the real world.

"If Jeter was sent down to the juvenile system it would be cheating the system," Anna Sowers said outside of the courtroom Monday. "And he's already cheated Zach out of four months of his life."

[October 15th, 2007] 3:30pm
Zach has now been moved to the Hopkins long-term care center. The blood that he was vomiting on Thursday night and Friday turned out to be nothing serious. His doctor thought that it could have been a slight irritation in his stomach. They checked his blood levels and he remained stable all weekend. His doctor said that the stomach does not like blood so when there is blood in there, it must come out, either by vomiting or in the stool and it can look worse than it really is. So it was a relief that his trip to the ER turned out to be nothing serious.

Zach has only been at the care center for a few days but the doctors, PA’s, nurses, techs, and aids have been great. Everyone there is so friendly, informative and helpful. It’s been very comforting to have such a good staff taking care of Zach during this difficult transition.

Just because Zach has been moved to subacute care does not mean he cannot still heal and wake up. The damage to the brain that Zach sustained was extremely traumatic so his body is not only healing his brain but also healing a massive bedsore on his lower back. Zach has also lost a significant amount of weight but his lab work looks OK. His body is going through a lot needs time to heal. Miracles do happen, especially with the help of so many loving friends, family and supporters.

Anna attended a juvenile transfer hearing for Eric Price and Arthur Jeter this morning. The judge denied Jeter a transfer to the juvenile justice system, which means that Jeter will remain in the adult system. Price’s hearing was postponed to Nov. 7th at 9:30 AM in room 215. There are two remaining defendants: Trayvon Ramos and Wilbert Martin. Ramos is serving 5 years in prison for his carjacking a woman in Feb 2007, and Martin remains in jail (since he was 18 at the time of Zach’s attack).

Anna spoke to several television and newspaper reporters after the hearing, so Zach’s story will be in the news again. Look for it on this evening’s news broadcasts and tomorrow’s Sun and Examiner.
[October 9th, 2007] 10:45am
Zach has been stable until Friday night, when he started vomiting what looked like coffee grounds, which is usually an indication of blood. They tested it and it was positive for blood so he was sent to the Hopkins ER for further testing. The GI doctor flushed liquid in through his feeding tube opening and then drew it back out to see if there was any blood while his was in the ER. Luckily there wasn't any more blood during his tests. But Zach does have blood in his stool so he is loosing blood somewhere in his GI tract. It's such a small amount now (after doing repeated blood tests) that although they are concerned, it's nothing overly dangerous. Doctors will continue to monitor him and follow his progress.

After they take care of his bleeding problem, Zach will remain at Hopkins in their chronic care facility since Kernan and insurance both agree that Zach hasn't shown enough signs of improvement to remain in Kernan's rehab problem. Although this isn't news we want to hear, a formidable battle with the insurance company is not something Anna wants to pursue now and she will focus time and energy on making sure Hopkins provides the proper rehabilitation and treatment for Zach. He will still get rehab at Hopkins, just not 3 hours a day.

An interview with WBAL Radio AM 1090 will run next week (Monday through Wednesday) during the Ron Smith Show. Ron has talked about Zach's case since it happened. His show starts at 3 p.m. The first segment should be running on Monday at 4:15 p.m. Also, if you missed our childhood friend, Erin Sprague, on TV promoting Frederick's Neighbors' Night Out, check her out and click "Watch" in the upper right hand corner. As always, thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

The trial on October 15th has been postponed until Friday, December 7th, at 2 PM. I will keep you updated if anything changes.
[October 5th, 2007] 10:30am
Here is an update from Anna:

" Frederick's Neighbor's Nigh Out was another success. Our family would like to thank all of the sponsors as well as the Frederick "Street Team" that put this event together. We'd also like to thank the Frederick Adult Co-Ed Kickball Association for donating $1,000 to Zach's fund. And lastly, we'd like to thank all those that came out to support the fundraiser! The bars and restaurants that I went to were packed and there was a sea of black, Zach Sowers t-shirts in Firestone's. The best part was seeing people I didn't know in Zach t-shirts.

This weekend's fundraiser was filled with lots of friends and family. We had family drive out from Ohio to attend the Frederick event so it was nice for them to meet all those who love us in good old, Frederick, MD. The event was almost like a quasi-high school reunion, which was great. I saw old friends that I had classes with, went to senior week with, went to parties with and skipped classes with, all eating and drinking in honor of Zach.

It was great to see how childhood friends that you played Jailbreak with every day but occasionally kept in touch with for the past 10+ years can band together immediately and help out a friend in need. Through this tragic ordeal, I have met tons of new friends that support Zach and our families as well as reconnected with old friends that have never lost their place in my heart. I know that we would not be able to handle this if it weren't for all the support from friends and family, not just in Maryland, but all over the U.S. and abroad. It’s friends and family that keep our spirits high and do what they can to offer their love and support.

Thank you so much to Betsy, Sarah and Erin for organizing the event and to everyone else who I didn't email with every day but I know helped make the fundraiser a success. Thank you Dave Evans for flyer-ing the entire town (I saw a flyer at the car wash when I was waiting in line on Saturday). And I'd like to congratulate Betsy and myself for doing hot yoga for the first time at Sol Yoga (a sponsor) and making it through the entire class, even though we didn't know any of the poses. That one session completely changed my perception of yoga. I highly recommend it, especially to all those who thought yoga was boring, like me.

Also, Baltimore's Neighbors' Night Out raised about $13,000. We can't wait to see what Frederick raised. Regardless, the support that poured in for both events made both equally successful. "

[September 27th, 2007] 10:00am
Zach is still stable, there is no major improvement to talk about and the doctors are still monitoring his progress week by week. Doctors are changing him from Ritalin to another neurological stimulant called Strattera to see if that arouses him more. Let's hope this change will result in some forward progress with Zach's rehabilitation.

I saw Zach the other day at Kernan and when Anna was in Michigan. I walked in and his eyes were wide open. His head was shaved and I could clearly see the stitches on top of his head and the shunt they put in a few weeks ago. After telling him all my secrets, I sat there and thought about how much I missed my friend talking back to me. It was nice though to have some alone time and talk to my buddy about everything and nothing. I hope you come back to us soon Zach.

Just a reminder that Sunday is Neighbors' Night Out in Frederick. Please come out and show your support for Zach and his family. Click here for a a complete list of restaurants participating in Frederick. T-Shirts are still available at Firestone's Market (that's the store right next to Firestone's restaurant). Hope to see everyone out!

Hey, you know that site all them crazy youngins are talking about these days? That's right...MySpace. Well Zach has his very own events page at MySpace.com/zachsowersevents. Check it out and add him as your friend.
[September 17th, 2007] 10:00am
Zach has stabilized from all the vomiting that occurred during his transfer from Hopkins to Kernan. He is back on his tube feed and tolerating it well, and his vital signs all look normal. They drew blood and urine cultures on Sunday, which showed that he tested positive for a bacterial infection called Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus (VRE), a highly resistant strain of bacteria. He had to be moved from his room to a private room so that he doesn't infect any other patients. Zach is not showing any symptoms of infection and his doctor will determine the best treatment on Monday.

Zach's trail date, which was originally set for Oct. 15, will most likely be postponed. Updates will be provided soon as to the new date. Also, if you would like to help with the trial and have not done so already, please write a letter to the judge, care of the prosecutor on Zach's case, stating how this crime has affected you so that appropriate sentencing can be handed down. Click How Can I Help for more info.

Also, Zach Sowers t-shirts and hats are being sold at 2910 on the Square in the Canton Square in Baltimore and Firestone's, located at 109 N. Market St in Frederick, Maryland.

Don't forget to attend Frederick's Neighbors' Night out on Sunday, Sept. 30. Check for all participating restaurants.
[September 13th, 2007] 11:00am
Zach was transferred from Hopkins to Kernan yesterday, but the move was pretty traumatic. He vomited when the ambulance crew moved him from his bed to the stretcher, and then again many times during the ride to Kernan.

His doctor at Kernan said he was completely washed out and looked very sick. The Kernan staff looked after Zach and took care of him until things calmed down. They emptied out everything from his stomach to prevent further vomiting, gave him some anti-nausea medicine and kept him on his side so that he didn't aspirate. His doctor considered sending him to Kernan's ICU or possibly the nearest ER, but luckily the medicine helped and he was looking better.

Anna left Kernan at 9 p.m. since she wasn't allowed to spend the night but will be back today to spend the day with him. Zach will get a head CT and belly x-ray today as a baseline and to see if it was the shunt that made him so sick or something else. They also took a blood and urine sample for testing because he had a fever and high heart rate.

Hopefully everything gets better soon and Zach can start his rehab again.