The Gruesome Murder-Suicide of The Couple That Peaked During Hurricane Katrina
On October 17, 2006, the New Orleans Police Department got a call from the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel at around 8:30 P.M. The hotel was reporting a guest they saw who jumped off of the rooftop bar, fell seven stories, and died on impact from landing on the top of a parking garage.
The police rush to the scene and next to the building they find the body of 28-year-old Zack Bowen. At first glance, the police saw this as nothing more than just a suicide. Moments later, they were able to locate a plastic bag in Bowen’s right front pocket. Inside the plastic bag was a short note to the police, his army dog tags, and a key to his apartment in the French Quarter. The note contained Zack’s address along with the name of his landlord to grant permission to a search warrant.
The short message he wrote said:
“This is not accidental. I had to take my own life to pay for the one I took. If you send a patrol car to 826 N Rampart, you will find the dismembered corpse of my girlfriend Addie in the oven, on the stove, and in the fridge and a full signed confession from myself.”
It was upon reading this note, the New Orleans Police realized they were dealing with homicide and suicide. But let’s backtrack to who our suicide victim, Zackary Bowen is.
Zackary “Zack” Bowen was born on May 15, 1978, in Bakersfield, California, and spent the majority of his childhood within the state. For the most part, Zack grew up as your pretty average American boy.
Throughout his life, he seemed to always worry about letting the people around him down and how others perceived his success and failures.
Zack started to fall into a depressive state in high school, so he decided to give his life a fresh start elsewhere. Zack moved from Sacramento, California (where he was living with his mom and attending high school) to New Orleans, Louisiana to live with his father. Once arriving, Zack finished his high school education and got a job as a bartender when he was 18.
While bartending on Bourban Street, Zack met 28-year-old Lana Shupack. Lana was originally from Florida and worked as a stripper at the time of their meeting. Zack and Lana took an immediate interest in each other and began dating pretty quickly. But after only a short time of dating, Lana finds out she is pregnant with Zack’s child.
Even though Zack was going to be a young father, he embraced the situation and the couple eventually got married. Their first child Jackson was born, so Zack decided to quit his job and better support his family by joining the army.
Zack later enlisted in the army and served in Kosovo and Iraq tours. During his time in the service, he rose to the rank of Sargeant. Unfortunately, it came at a cost because he later developed severe PTSD.
One specific incident that haunted Zack for the rest of his life was one day he befriended a young Iraqi boy while serving. However, he later found out days later the boy was killed as punishment for interacting with Americans. Because of this, Zack felt immense survivor’s guilt and his mental health only got worse.
After a few years of suffering through the frontlines, Zack was generally discharged. This also put a lot of stress and sadness on Zack, since a general discharge is not at the same caliber as an honorable discharge. He felt as if all of the trauma and hell he had gone through was for nothing.
Regardless, Zack returns home to New Orleans but begins to have more problems and arguments with Lana. Deseret News quotes:
“According to his wife, Lana, he was a completely different person when he returned, and they soon faced marital problems and eventual separation.”
Even though Zack and Lana were no longer together, Zack still had to pay child support (at this point they now had two children) and resumed his job as a bartender for tourists. While returning to work as a bartender, this is where Zack meets his coworker and future girlfriend Addie Hall.
Addie was known to many of her friends to be an extremely creative and free spirit. She originally grew up in the northeast, but she came from a toxic and abusive household. But once she moved to New Orleans, she was able to be her own individual. She rode her bike from her French Quarter every day to work and that was her main form of transportation.
Addie also never let her creative tendencies go to waste and was artistic in several ways. She was a poet, a dancer, an artist, and a seamstress.
Although Addie now lives an independent and bohemian lifestyle in New Orleans, she too struggles with her own inner demons. According to many of Addie’s friends, Addie struggled with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. She was also known to get very aggressive and nasty towards her friends after having too many drinks. Addie also had a history of being in abusive relationships and didn’t want to fall into another one.
When Addie started flirting with Zack, she tried testing the waters by teasing him in a flirty way to see if he could really handle her. Despite her assumptions, Zack was interested in Addie from the start and was the only girl he was interested in.
The two young adults shared the same young and crazy lifestyle. They both loved the nightlife, they liked partying, they liked doing drugs, and they liked to drink — a lot.
Zack finally felt as if he was able to have fun and let loose with Addie. They were both constantly craving adrenaline and living to the fullest. Many of their friends thought since they were both constantly fueled on drugs and alcohol, it was going to be a tumultuous relationship from the start.
Despite their friends’ judgments, the two started their relationship and quickly was starting to fall in love. Everything seemed to be going well for them until they realized Hurricane Katrina was about to hit New Orleans.
In the days and weeks leading up to Hurricane Katrina, many residents were strongly advised to evacuate the city because it wouldn't be safe to stay behind. In fact, Zack was asked by Lana to evacuate with her and their children, but Zack refused. Instead, he wanted to stay in the city and ride out the storm in Addie’s apartment. While Lana thought this decision was immature and reckless, she wasn’t able to convince Zack of anything otherwise.
Once the storm surpassed, Zack and Addie were stranded with a small community of people who stayed behind in the city with no electricity, no running water, no heat or air conditioning, and limited resources. Yet ironically, they loved everything about this post-apocalyptic lifestyle.
The couple would go into abandoned bars to gather alcohol and make cocktails right outside of their apartment for others in exchange for food and water. They would light debris and mattresses on fire in the street to cook and stay warm at dusk. Everyone that was left behind in New Orleans was having a camping trip in their own city.
And what was their most notable behavior? Well, to keep the police circulating the area in case of emergencies, Addie would flash her chest to any police cars that drove by her apartment.
Zack and Addie’s presence, favors, and nonsense they did around New Orleans after the hurricane caught the attention of the media. The couple was even featured in several newspapers including The New York Times. People were describing them as the “King and Queen” of the Hurricane Katrina survivalists. At this point, Zack and Addie were head over heels in love with each other.
They thought this whole experience was an adventure, and if anything, didn’t want civilization to ever return. But eventually, the city slowly started to repopulate and build itself back up.
As New Orleans progressed to civilization again, Zack and Addie’s relationship began to take a downward spiral. What once seemed to be a beautiful thing that came out of a natural disaster was quickly becoming toxic.
Neither Zack or Addie were ready to start facing real world responsibilities again. They didn’t want to pay bills, follow a routine, or go to work anymore. They just wanted to camp out in post-apocalyptic Louisiana.
Zack no longer wanted to co-parent, pay child support, or deal with his ex-wife Lana. On the other hand, Addie didn’t want those responsibilities that came with Zack. She only wanted Zack, not Zack’s life. At this point, the rose-colored glasses were off and the honeymoon phase quickly ended for this couple.
Plus, both Zack and Addie used an extraordinary amount of drugs and drank excessively. Even one of their friends who goes by the nickname “Squirrel” said he supplied both of them during this time with a steady stream of cocaine.
According to several of their friends, the couple started constantly arguing and complaining about the other person to their acquaintances. Their fights exponentially became more explosive where the couple had plenty of physical altercations throughout their relationship. Many friends also said another common between Zack and Addie was they were in a constant cycle of breaking up and getting back together. No one ever really knew for sure what the state of their relationship was at any given time. Unfortunately, they both were hooked on chasing the highs and lows of frequently pushing the other one away and then chasing them down again to get back together.
After several months of constantly circling a toxic and abusive relationship, the state of the couple’s relationship has completely deteriorated. Zack wanted to end the relationship for good, but Addie tricked him into giving her one final chance.
Addie asked Zack if he wanted to “start fresh” with her a move back into her apartment on 826 N Rampart and he agreed. Zack paid the first two months of rent in advance and the lease was put in both Zack and Addie’s names. But after the rent was paid, Addie went back to the landlord a few days later and put the lease in her name only and later kicked Zack out that night. As for Zack, getting scammed and kicked out of his apartment was the final straw.
On the night of October 5, 2006, during a heated argument, Zack strangled Addie to death in the apartment. The first line of his signed confession states:
“Today is Monday, October 16, 2 A.M. I killed her at 1 A.M. Thursday 5 of October. I very calmly strangled her. It was very quick.”
When Zack killed Addie, he was both in a very intoxicated state as well as reaching a breaking point in his mental health. After Addie was gone, Zack committed necrophilia the night of October 5th and fell asleep next to her corpse. When he woke up, he got dressed and ready for work like it was any other normal day, and leaving Addie’s body to decompose in their apartment.
Eventually, in the days following Addie’s murder and Zack’s suicide, Zack had a very disturbing strategy when it came to disposing of her body. Zack brought Addie’s body into their bathtub and started to cut her apart using a knife and a hacksaw. These parts of her body that were cut were put in pots and pans and then stored in the fridge, on the stove, and in the oven, as previously mentioned it is a more effective way of disposal.
Police originally suspected this may have been linked to cannibalism, but they were not able to find any human remains in Zack’s digestive system when his autopsy report came out. So it’s clear the only purpose of cooking and dismemberment was to dispose of her corpse the easiest possible way.
“Halfway through the task, I stopped and thought about what I was doing. The decision to halt the first idea and move to Plan B (the crime scene you are now in) came after awhile. I scared myself not by the action of calmly strangling the woman I love for one and a half years, and then (desecrating) her body but by my entire lack of remorse.”
During this time, many of Zack’s friends said he started to act strange and was much quieter. Since he and Addie also had a lot of mutual friends, they began asking her where she went, and Zack would just answer that she went back to North Carolina (where she is originally from). While some friends were surprised by this answer, others weren’t so much. Addie’s bipolar disorder made her unpredictable, so it seemed fitting that during a tumultuous time in her and Zack’s relationship she would run back up north. But obviously, this was all a lie and Zack knew exactly what happened to her.
Zack finally came to a realization about what he was doing and fell apart. He metaphorically and physically beat himself to death over feeling no sense of empathy when he murdered his girlfriend. It was at this point when he truly let go of for his last few days of life.
Days before taking his own life, Zack went to the absolute maximum level when it came to partying. He went into overdrive by spending thousands of dollars going to strip clubs, drinking, doing drugs, and sleeping with multiple prostitutes and other women. The final statements of his confession note said:
“I’ve known for forever how horrible of a person I am — ask anyone — and decided to quit my job and spend the 1,500 cash I had being happy until I killed myself. So, that’s what I did: good food, good drugs, good strippers, good friends, and any loose ends I may have had. I didn’t contact any of my family. So that’ll explain the shock. And had a fantastic time living out my days… It’s just about time now.”
As soon as Zack spent the last of his money, he went to the rooftop of the Omni Royal Hotel on the 17th. He opened up a tab on the rooftop bar and drank to the point of being blackout drunk.
The police also noticed that Zack’s body was covered in bruises that didn’t look like they correlated with his jump off of the rooftop bar. But as is it turns out before Zack committed suicide, these bruises were self-inflicted by him. There were 28 to be exact, as they represented “every year he was a failure”.
As for the crime scene that Zack left behind, it was unsettling in the sense that it was a clear reflection of Zack’s inner demons.
In order to prevent Addie’s remains from decomposing slower and not smelling, the temperature was turned down to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The police said the temperature felt similar to a meat locker. The bathroom was cleaned of Addie’s blood, and Zack spray-painted his thoughts across the walls throughout his apartment with statements such as:
I love her.
I’m a total failure.
Look in the oven.
He also spray-painted Lana’s contact information so the police could break the news to her. And as Zack’s note said previously, his suicide was a huge surprise to Lana.
The apartment where this crime took place has now been renovated and opened to New Orleans tourists as a part of a Ghost Tour. Personally, this only took place in 2006, so it seems much too early for tourists to be looking at the scene for the sake of the victims’ respect.
What makes this case tug at the heartstrings the most is it could have been completely preventable. Both Zack and Addie’s mental health were at such low points they became an aggressor for the other person. They both could’ve gone on to live fulfilling, successful, and happy lives. The problem was, they needed to be apart in order for it to be possible.