PORTLAND (AP) – A Portland man accused of raping, mutilating and murdering an 8-year-old boy in 1979 in Indiana had a string of arrests in Maine in the 1980s and early ’90s before settling into a quiet routine as a house painter.

David Bowen, who’s awaiting extradition to Indiana, was arrested Tuesday while working on a painting crew in Kingfield after police linked him to the crime using DNA.

The owner of a Portland sandwich shop that Bowen frequented said he was “floored” upon learning that the man known in the neighborhood as “Dave the painter” was charged with murder.

Mal Mango, owner of Terroni’s, said Bowen came in nearly every day for the past 4 years, wearing painting clothes and a ball cap to pick up Marlboro Lights and chicken salad sandwiches. Bowen was one of the few nonfamily members allowed to run a tab at the store if he didn’t have cash on hand.

“He would ask if he could pay me back in the morning, and then he would be there the next day, waiting at the door for me to open up,” Mango said. “He was always polite, well-spoken. He was on a first-name basis with myself and my family. He was going to do some work on my house.”

Bowen, who’s 44, was a prime suspect after Kenneth “Butch” Conrick’s mutilated body was found tied to a tree two weeks after disappearing while walking home from school in Gary, Ind., in October 1979. But police didn’t have enough physical evidence to charge Bowen, who was 16 at the time.

As the investigation withered in Indiana, Bowen made a life for himself in Maine, getting married and working as a painter. He had a series of run-ins with police on charges ranging from drunken driving to felony robbery.

In 1984, Bowen and another young man were convicted of robbing the owner of a Biddeford pizza parlor of $1,200. Bowen served four months in jail, according to state records.

He was convicted of misdemeanor theft in 1989 and of assault in both 1991 and 1992. He also had three convictions in the 1980s for drunken driving and had his license suspended indefinitely in 1990.

His ex-wife told WCSH-TV that Bowen was a big drinker when they were married, more than 15 years ago. The woman, who spoke under the condition that her name not be used, said Bowen could be “like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” when he drank.

But Bowen apparently kept his nose clean in recent years, moving between apartments in Portland and traveling with painting crews.

His longtime landlord, Jim Harmon, said Bowen moved a few years ago to a basement apartment in a 14-unit building across the street from the Portland Expo.

“He stayed on his own. He kept to himself and had a few friends,” Harmon said. “Sometimes he was a little late, but he took … care of his bills.”

Bert Michelson of Portland worked on painting crews with Bowen and was friends with him and his family. Bowen had a daughter from his marriage, he said, but struggled with alcohol.

“He said he couldn’t go back to Indiana because of some trouble he and his brother were in,” Michelson said. “I knew nothing else about it. I have no idea why he came to Maine.”

Back in Indiana, the 1979 murder case was reopened a couple of years ago.

Detectives talked to Bowen in recent months and took a DNA sample, said Kevin Joyce, a Farmington attorney who represented Bowen at his extradition hearing on Wednesday. The DNA sample was linked to evidence from the crime scene, police said.

“He told me he was interested in going back to Indiana to contest the charge,” Joyce said. “He knew it was inevitable.”

AP-ES-12-20-07 1040EST

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