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Bowman's death may be "natural causes"

Police say no illegal drugs found in room

Christopher Bowman won the second of his two national titles in Orlando in 1992.
Christopher Bowman won the second of his two national titles in Orlando in 1992. (Getty Images)

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By Linda Przygodski
(01/11/2008) - Two-time U.S. Figure Skating champion Christopher Bowman passed away Thursday in a Los Angeles area motel. A friend discovered Bowman's body at The Budget Inn in the North Hills area of Los Angeles. The friend told responding officer Sgt. Francisca Wheeling that Bowman was drinking the night before his death.

Initially Bowman's death was reported as a possible drug overdose, but "we don't have anything that points specifically to that as the cause," assistant chief Ed Winter of the L.A. County Coroner's office said Saturday.

There is a possibility that Bowman's death was the result of an accident or natural causes. His weight had ballooned to over 250 pounds. He was 40.

"There was some prescription medication present at the scene, but no evidence of illegal drugs," Winter said.

Bowman's body was found by a male friend police Sgt. Greg Houser said Saturday.

Bowman and his friend were staying at the motel on the 9100 block of Sepulvda Blvd. Police confirmed that the friend awoke Thursday morning and found Bowman not breathing. He called 911, but the paramedics were unable to revive him.

Houser said there was no evidence of illegal drugs, and foul play was not an issue.

"Everything seemed to be in order," he said. "There was no indication that there was anything criminal. There wasn't any indication there that there was drug use going on."

The motel is known to be trafficked by prostitutes, gang members and drug dealers in a seedy neighborhood sprinkled with gas stations, by-the-hour motels and abandoned buildings.

"He just passed away in his sleep," Bowman's mother, Joyce, told the Detroit Free Press on Thursday. "His friend told me that he was fine. He just went to bed and didn't wake up." He was pronounced dead at 12:06 pm.

The ABC and ESPN commentator and 1988 and '92 Olympic team member's death was under investigation, according to Lt. Joe Bale; an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death was scheduled for Saturday.

"Christopher was one of the most entertaining skaters I have ever seen," Nancy Kerrigan exclusively told icenetwork.com. "He understood better than most how to capture the crowd. I know my parents were huge fans of his because they loved how he could communicate with the audience. I will never forget spending time with Christopher at the 1992 Olympics. We had a lot of fun. He will be missed."

According to the Associated Press, Bowman had a life-long battle with drugs and had sought treatment twice, in 1988 and 1992. He admitted to having a dependency on cocaine prior to the '88 Olympics when he checked into the Betty Ford Center.

"U.S. Figure Skating was extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Christopher Bowman," U.S. Figure Skating President Ron Hershberger said. "He was an exceptionally talented skater and his friends throughout the skating community will always remember the special gifts he shared with us. Our thoughts are with Christopher's family during this difficult time as they deal with this tragic loss."

During a stop on the Ice Capades tour in 1993, he was involved in an incident where he was beaten up in a Pittsburgh hotel room. In 2004, he was charged with two misdemeanor counts of drunk driving and brandishing a weapon while in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Those charges were dropped. In 2005, however, he was again charged for being in possession of a weapon while intoxicated, Bowman waved a gun at then girlfriend April Freeman, and was given 18 months probation.

"After the gun incident, he was with me and got into treatment for his bipolar disorder," Freeman told the Free Press on Thursday. "I know him. I know he's been through a terrible time. I stood by him because I knew he loved me. He is the kindest, most caring and lost person I ever met."

Freeman was actually supposed to fly to L.A. on Friday to meet with Bowman. She said she last spoke with him on Wednesday night, and he told her, "I miss you and love you."

After his competitive skating career ended, Bowman coached at several Detroit skating clubs before moving back to California in 2007.

Bowman's personality and attitude towards training made it hard on his coaches, but they were all fond of him and saddened to learn of his death.

"Christopher Bowman was one of the most talented and entertaining skaters that I ever worked with," said John Nicks, one former coach.

Frank Carroll, who coached Bowman for 18 years, added, "He was truly a unique, wonderful, witty and intelligent human being. He was the most talented skater that I ever taught."

During an interview on The Today Show on NBC on Friday morning, reigning U.S. champion Evan Lysacek paid his respects, saying that Bowman "was definitely an icon in our sport, and he'll be missed, and our thoughts are obviously with his family."

Before becoming a competitive skater, Bowman was a child actor starring in commercials, movies and television shows. He is most often remembered for his portrayal of Benjamin in the television series Little House on the Prairie.

Bowman was on probation at the time of his death for a petty theft conviction. He is survived by a daughter, Bianca, with his ex-wife Annette.