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New Orleans man leapt to his death after cutting up girlfriend

A man that friends described as sweet and charming, leapt to his death from a luxury hotel — leaving behind a note claiming he strangled and dismembered his girlfriend, police said.

Authorities said the note, found on the body of 28-year-old Zackery Bowen, led them to a French Quarter apartment late Tuesday and the grisly discovery of a woman’s remains — a charred head, legs and arms, and a torso, in a bag in the refrigerator.

Bowen’s note identified the woman as his girlfriend, but did not mention her name, police said Wednesday.

The body was found in the second-floor apartment that Bowen and his girlfriend, Adriane Hall, had shared above a voodoo shop, according to the landlord. Authorities said that because of the condition of the dismembered woman’s body could not identify her. They were looking for Hall, however.

“All you can ask yourself when you see something like this is, Why?” police spokesman and chief of detectives Anthony Cannatella said.

A woman who identified herself as Priestess Miriam Chamani in the Voodoo Spiritual Temple and Cultural Center below the apartment said the couple had recently moved in. A box and crate remained in an alley near the building, holding a rolling pin and other items she said belonged to them.

“You never know what’s going on in people’s minds,” she said, incense wafting onto the sidewalk from her shop.

The apartment’s owner, Leo Watermeier, said he last saw Hall on Oct. 5, four days after the couple put down a deposit on the one-bedroom, $750-a month apartment. Later that day, Watermeier said, Bowen called him, angrily saying the woman was kicking him out.

Watermeier said Hall told him she had caught the boyfriend cheating.

Cannatella said the motive appeared to be a dispute over rent. Cannatella said the note indicated Bowen strangled the woman after an argument and cut up her body — using a hand saw and knife, according to police.

“He took his life to compensate for the life he had taken,” Cannatella said.

The couple was profiled in several news stories following Hurricane Katrina as resilient residents who remained in the city after the devastating hurricane despite evacuation orders and a lack of power and water.

A story published by Newhouse News Service described the couple gathering tree limbs for cooking fires at night and trading beer and alcohol — easy to get because of their jobs as bartenders — for clean water. The couple also figured out a creative way to make sure police continued to patrol their house: Hall would flash her breasts at police vehicles to make sure they kept driving by, according to a profile in The New York Times.

“We’ve been able to see the stars for the first time,” Hall told Newhouse after the storm last year. “Before, this was a 24-hour lit city. Now it’s peaceful.”

Holly Jacker, who tended bar with Bowen at Buffa’s, said Bowen was outgoing — and a hit with the ladies.

“Women loved him,” she said Wednesday night, over the din of music in the dimly lit bar. “He was gorgeous, charming, a big fat flirt.”

Det. Ronald Ruiz said police hoped to make a positive ID of the body, using DNA or dental records, sometime next week. He said police estimated the dismembered woman was in her mid to late-20s.

Cannatella said Bowen had a “minor” recent arrest for marijuana possession. Sheriff’s department records show an Adriane Hall faced a charge of aggravated assault with a firearm.

The note, Cannatella said, indicated the woman was killed early in the morning of Oct. 5, in apparent conflict with the landlord’s account.

Joy Spaulding, who works at the nearby Nawlin’s Flava cafe, said she occasionally saw Hall and Bowen. “To be honest, they seemed like a real nice couple. They were good-looking people, young people trying to do something with their lives.”