Jesse Rowles endured horrific abuse as a child from his own mother and is now speaking out about it on Evil Lives Here (Season 11, Episode 1 “Locked in the Closet”.) One of the physical scars from his abuse came from the time his mom, Maryn Bernice Rowles, stabbed him with a fork for eating his spaghetti too loud. Jesse says he remembers that his mom was slurping her spaghetti loudly too, but when he did it she was infuriated to the point of violence. He now has a bandaid and a message of forgiveness tattooed on top of the scar.
The tattoo has the words “I forgive you, MBR” along with an image of a bandaid.
Mary Rowles and her girlfriend Alice Jenkins are currently serving 30-year sentences for inflicting abuse on Jesse when he was young.
As he starts to tear up, Jesse tells the audience that it’s impossible to know some of the devastating abuse that’s going on behind closed doors in people’s homes. Many times people would never suspect that people they know and love would be capable of such horrific acts.
Mary Rowles had six children by the time she was 21 years old. She had started having kids at age 15.
Tying to the bedpost
Jesse says that before Mary met Alice, she was a good mom. Mary’s three oldest children went to live with their fathers while Mary and her youngest kids moved in with Alice in Akron, Ohio. At first, things were ok, but soon enough Alice got jealous of the kids because Mary gave them attention.
This was when Alice started tying Jesse and his brother Tyler to the bed every morning before she went to work. They were tied by their wrists, and couldn’t roll over in their ties. At this time, Mary would spend all of her time with her baby, Caleb. Jesse says that he didn’t really understand what was going on and didn’t know enough to realize that this wasn’t normal behavior for a caretaker. Now that he’s an adult, the memory of this scares her.
Eventually, Jesse and Tyler figured out how to untie themselves, which made Alice frustrated, but she didn’t punish them. It made everything seem like a game. The game soon intensified, however, as Alice wanted to make sure they stayed captive so she put them in separate rooms and tied the opposite doors together to trap them inside. He remembers her calmly carrying out the tasks as if they were animals she was taking care of. They had to sit there, alone from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. They had nothing to do, and no way to track time. They would pass the time by making music by tapping on the wall.
Alice started starving the kids
Soon enough, the kids started getting less and less food from Alice. At first, they would eat cereal at breakfast and then mac and cheese at night. Then their food was reduced to half a peanut butter sandwich for each meal. They also stopped being allowed to eat downstairs, and they weren’t allowed to use the restroom when they wanted so they had to go in the corners of the room. Jesse and Tyler were also kept from each other for almost a year, and their mother Mary never came to check on them.
Why did Mary allow this to happen?
When Jesse later confronted Mary about why this happened, she explained that she had been strung out on morphine the whole time. She had failed to check on her kids because she was high.
A slight reprieve
There were a few weeks when everything got better because Mary’s oldest kids came over to stay. During this time, everyone ate downstairs and life was somewhat normal. It wall went back to imprisonment and starvation after the other kids returned to their fathers.
Jesse was allowed to leave the house when it was time for him to start school, however. It was hard for Jesse to comprehend the outside world at this point. He wasn’t potty trained, he couldn’t read, and he was severely malnourished. However, he doesn’t remember any teachers showing concern for them. After only a few weeks, Jesse and Tyler were suddenly taken out of school. He doesn’t know why they pulled out of school, but there was no intervention from CPS
Stuck in the closet
About a week after the boys were pulled from school, they call kids on the sidewalk out of the window. The other kids asked them to come out and play, but Alice caught them talking. After that, the boys were locked in a closet with a padlock. Soon enough, locking them in the closet became a normal occurrence. They would also put a large dresser against the door.
Unlike being trapped in their rooms, the boys were locked in utter darkness. They had no idea when they would get more food. They would often get half a peanut butter sandwich to share between them. Jesse has long-term physical damage from being starved as a kid and being locked in the dark for long periods of time. He also had no idea how to take track of time. He lost track of how old he was and had no concept of a year going by.
Jesse’s PTSD was triggered as he recalled these memories. Just thinking of it made him feel like he was back in the closet.
Tyler got the brunt of the physical violence that Alice was capable of. They would sit in terror listening to Alice’s steel-toe boots coming towards the closet, and she would spank him with a belt.
One day Alice brought Jesse and Tyler downstairs and asked them to play with a trash bag full of toys they had never seen before. Then, CPS showed up to the house. They watched the boys playing while they talked to Alice and Mary, and didn’t go upstairs to check on their living conditions. After CPS left, Alice packed away the toys again and put the boys back in the closet.
All six kids
In 2003 when Jesse was 8-years-old, all of Mary’s kids were living in the house. Their older sister Marissa would help out Tyler and Jesse when she moved in. She would let them out of the closet and help them to the bathroom. One day when Alice and Mary were out, Marissa went downstairs and found that the kitchen was full of food. Jesse was overwhelmed at the amount of food they found.
They took as much of the food as they could to the closet and had Marissa lock them back in the closet. However, Alice noticed that the food was gone and starved the boys for the next few days. She accused them of stealing her food, and she punished them by asking them to eat the dog’s feces.
Alice then went to feeding the boys once a month. Their mother Mary was never around anymore, and the kids were desperate to escape their horrifying circumstances.
One night, Marissa convinced Jesse, Tyler, and Caleb to escape out of the window in the middle of the night. They were able to make it out and started walking up the street. The outside world was extremely overwhelming but was beautiful for Jesse. He now thinks the freedom of the outside world is more beautiful than it was then.
The kids were barely clothed, thin, and had no plan. They drank water from the hose of someone’s house. They also noticed a lady in the window calling the cops. Soon, a cop car pulled up. Much like the Turpin children, they didn’t trust the cops at first.
The police offered to buy the kids food if they would talk to them. They gave them huge sandwiches and Gatorade. As they ravenously ate, the boys opened up about how they had been locked in a closet. The cops made a radio call and then took the kids back to Alice’s house. The kids were screaming because they thought they would make them live with Alice again.
Thankfully, though, the police had called for backup to arrest Alice and Mary. They walked out of the house in handcuffs, and this was the last time Tyler ever saw his mother again.
All six kids were hospitalized for malnourishment, and Jesse had to stay in the hospital for six weeks. Tyler, Jesse, and Caleb were later adopted by their foster family. Jesse didn’t find out what had happened to his mother and Alice until years later.
They both pled guilty to multiple child abuse charges and were sentenced to 30 years in prison. They’ll both get out in 2033, and now Jesse doesn’t think they were given enough time.
No remorse from Alice
In 2017, Alice told Jesse that she felt she had done nothing wrong. In fact, she thought she was taking up the slack of Mary’s role as a mother. Mary has apologized, and Jesse doesn’t believe her but he forgives her. He wants to forgive Alice, but can’t do so.
Jesse’s sister Marissa eventually became the mother she had always wanted, but she was tragically killed in a car collision with a street racer.
Evil Lives Here airs Sunday nights on Investigation Discovery and is available to stream on the Discovery+ app.