Anita Cowen: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?

Anita Cowen

In June 2016, Anita Cowen’s son and daughter-in-law contacted the police to perform a wellness check on her after receiving an abruptly ended phone call that raised concerns. Upon arriving at her residence, the police discovered her body in the backyard swimming pool and the entire house in disarray. The scene indicated to the police that it was a homicide. The investigation into Anita’s death, including the events leading up to it that aided in solving the crime, is detailed in Netflix’s ‘Worst Roommate Ever’ episode ‘Housemate From Hell.’

Anita Cowen’s Body Was Found Dead in Her Swimming Pool

Anita Cowen always aspired to live independently, which was a rarity for women during her upbringing. In 1966, she pursued her dreams by enrolling at Manchester University to study business. Shortly after, she married and gave birth to a son named Steven Stirt. However, this path was meant to be hers only for a while. Her marriage dissolved after a few years, prompting her to raise Steven as a single mother while still relatively young. She worked as a Physician Recruiter at Emergency Medical Service Associates and as National Director at Stat Travelers in Los Angeles.

In 1995, Anita Cowen finally established roots in Southern California and launched her own company, American Med Research, Inc., a nursing agency, bringing stability to her life. She supported her son and raised him to be a respectable member of society. By 2016, at 66, she had purchased a home in Cathedral City, California. Despite her achievements, finances were tight, and maintaining a house posed challenges. To help cover costs, she sought tenants and advertised on Craigslist.

Anita had a three-bedroom house and decided to rent out two of the rooms. She opted to refrain from conducting background checks on her tenants due to the associated costs, relying instead on her instincts before finalizing rental agreements. On June 14, 2016, Anita’s son and daughter-in-law were speaking with her on the phone when they heard a disturbance followed by the call abruptly ending. Concerned, they immediately left their home to check on her and contacted the police to conduct a welfare check. The police arrived at Anita’s house shortly after 11 pm and did not observe anything unusual at first.

Upon reaching the backyard, the police discovered a body floating in the pool, later identified as Anita. Unfortunately, she had passed away before any medical assistance could be provided. The autopsy revealed that Anita’s death resulted from blunt force trauma to the head, indicating it was not accidental. Consequently, a homicide investigation was promptly initiated.

Anita Cowen’s Killer Was Present at the Crime Scene

The police at Anita Cowen’s residence conducted a thorough sweep to ensure no other victims. They observed that the entire house was in disarray, with items overturned, suggesting a struggle had occurred. While one room was empty, they discovered a man in another room lying naked on his bed, visibly distressed with scratch marks on his torso. He identified himself as Scott Pettigrew and was promptly placed under arrest.

During questioning, Scott informed the police that Darrell, another roommate, had arrived at the house and caused significant chaos. Scott expressed concern for Anita’s safety amidst the tumultuous events. The police located Darrell, who provided a contrasting account of events. According to Darrell, he had been a tenant of Anita’s long before Scott moved in. He explained that issues began when Scott started living there. Darrell claimed that Scott would enter his room in the middle of the night and frighten his cats. Additionally, Darrell stated that items such as light bulbs and cleaning tablets went missing from the bathroom, and Scott falsely accused Darrell of these actions.

Unaware of the truth, Anita believed Scott’s accusations and confronted Darrell about his behavior, leading to tensions between them. The situation escalated when Darrell returned home to find himself locked out repeatedly. On one occasion, after returning from a weekend away, he found the door locked again and called the police for assistance.

Surprisingly, upon their arrival, Darrell was arrested based on an allegation made by Anita, accusing him of elder abuse and pushing her down the stairs. Subsequently, he was taken to the county jail. After a few weeks, Anita visited him in prison and confessed that Scott had coerced her into fabricating the accusations against Darrell. She admitted she was there to set the record straight and secure Darrell’s release.

Darrell mentioned that he had moved out of the house and hadn’t returned since. When police spoke with Anita’s son, Steven Stirt, he provided details about Scott, Anita’s tenant. Steven explained that Scott had been harassing Anita, keeping the house disorderly, and frequently becoming enraged. His behavior had terrified Anita to the extent that she began hoarding food and essentials in her room to avoid encountering him. Scott had also neglected to pay rent, prompting Anita to obtain a restraining order against him. This order prohibited Scott from coming within five yards of Anita, and it had been issued just five days before her death.

The most incriminating evidence discovered by the police was a tape recording device hidden under a table in Anita’s house. It captured the moments leading up to Anita’s death, during which she pleaded for help and begged her attacker to spare her. Although the other voice on the recording was muffled, police determined it belonged to Scott. Based on this crucial evidence, Scott was found guilty of Anita’s murder by a jury in November 2019.

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