Amber Pelerin last spoke to her son, Maverick Bowman, on Wednesday night. He told her he was at his grandmother’s former home on Route 2 in Putnam with a friend, Adrian Sawyer, and that was not what she wanted to hear.
She said she had concerns about Sawyer, who she believed had a history of violence and drug use, and didn’t want her 15-year-old son hanging around with him. So she called a family member from her home in Texas to ask that they check on him.
“My last words were, ‘Please get my son before something happens to him,’ “ she recalled.
It was unclear what, if anything, the relative did. But little more than 24 hours later, Pelerin got a phone call that her son was dead, and police believed Sawyer had killed him with a machete, in the home owned by her mother and Maverick’s grandmother, Cindy Bowman.
Police believe Sawyer killed Bowman after an argument over a girl, in a remote home where no adults had been living that neighbors said had become a party spot for teens. Sawyer, 16, has been charged with murder and arson.
As she drove 32 hours north to New York from her home in Texas on Friday morning, crying on and off while she talked to a reporter on the phone, Pelerin said her 15-year-old and a younger sibling had been failed by the family court system in Essex County. The court left the boys with relatives in New York instead of allowing them to go to Texas with her, she said.
Pelerin, formerly of Putnam, remembered Maverick as an extremely intelligent, kind boy who loved snowmobiles, pickup trucks and the outdoors. He was a good athlete and played football at Ticonderoga High School. One of his biggest passions was building trucks, and he was putting together one to go “mud bogging.”
She said he grew to 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, and died just five days short of his 16th birthday. She said he was very excited about getting his driving permit on his birthday, and she had sent him the birth certificate he needed.
Pelerin said her efforts to get physical custody of her sons went on for years in Essex County Family Court. She won custody of her youngest son after he was seriously hurt in a snowmobile accident that occurred when he was not being supervised by an adult, she said.
“The best thing for my kids was to get them out of New York. Nothing good happens there,” she said.
The main finding against her, and the recommendation by lawyers who represented her sons in Family Court, was that the boys should remain with their father in the Ticonderoga area so they could be around their extended family. (Pelerin was arrested in Ticonderoga in March 2017 on a felony weapon count for possession of a handgun that was not registered in New York but was in Texas, but she said that did not play a part in the custody case other than requiring her to stay in the region until the case was resolved. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to a conditional discharge.)
In May, Pelerin won custody of her 13-year-old son, Maverick’s brother Kevin Pelerin, and he moved to Texas with her. A trial was scheduled in Essex County Family Court in September to determine whether she would win custody of the older boy as well.
Pelerin said she was involved in years of custody battles over the boys, but could not convince a number of judges who presided over the cases to let her take the boys to Texas until she won her case for the youngest boy earlier this year.
She cried as she lamented the fact she won’t get to fight for her oldest.
“I’ve been to court 40 times for these boys. I’ve fought for them over and over and spent thousands and thousands of dollars,” she said. “How am I supposed to live the rest of my life without my son, knowing the court system took him?”
Efforts to reach Cindy Bowman and Nathan Heald, whom Pelerin identified as Maverick’s father, were unsuccessful Thursday and Friday.