Lawyers for Pittsburgh synagogue killer Robert Bowers want his father’s remains to be dug up so they can prove paternity.

In a motion filed Tuesday, the defense team is asking U.S. District Judge Robert Colville to order the exhumation of Randall Bowers for a DNA paternity test.

At issue is schizophrenia. The defense says Robert Bowers suffers from it and so should not be put to death for slaughtering 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue building in 2018.

Lawyers say Randall Bowers, who killed himself at age 26 when Robert Bowers was a boy, suffered from schizophrenia. The disease runs in families, the defense said. So the lawyers want to prove that Randall is indeed the defendant’s father to bolster their contention that Robert is also schizophrenic.

The prosecution has tried to cast doubt that Randall is the father during the cross-examination of a key defense witness, psychologist Katherine Porterfield, who performed a psychological history of Robert Bowers.

Porterfield had made entries in her notes that Barbara Bolt, his mother, had said she was not sure if “Dell” was the father. She also said a neighbor told her that Bolt was seeing several men at the time Bowers was born.

“The evidence also establishes that Randall Bowers was diagnosed with schizophrenia,” the defense motion said. “Evidence establishing mental illness on Robert Bowers’ paternal side, particularly from a first-degree relative such as his father, strengthens the basis for concluding that Mr. Bowers too suffers from a serious mental illness.”

The lawyers said the fact that prosecutors are trying to instill doubt about Randall’s paternity is an indication that they, too, think the issue of paternity is important because of the possibility of schizophrenia.

“Considering that evidence Mr. Bowers is a person with schizophrenia is a key part of his defense in mitigation and the public policy of the Department of Justice against executing individuals with serious mental illness, the interests of justice support ordering the exhumation of Randall Bowers’ body to confirm paternity for Robert Bowers,” the defense said.

Randall George Bowers killed himself in 1979 in Forest County, the defense has said. He is buried in Shaler.

Prosecutors had not yet responded to the motion as of Tuesday afternoon.

Bowers has been convicted of the killings and the jury has found him eligible for the death penalty. Both sides are now presenting aggravating and mitigating factors to either send him to the federal death chamber in Indiana or to prison for life.

This story is part of ongoing coverage of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial by the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle and the Pittsburgh Union Progress in a collaboration supported by funding from the Pittsburgh Media Partnership.

Torsten covers the courts for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Reach him at

Torsten Ove

Torsten covers the courts for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Reach him at