Man who faked his own death gets long prison sentence - WNEM TV 5

Man who faked his own death gets long prison sentence

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Charles Rowan and Rosalinda Martinez Charles Rowan and Rosalinda Martinez

UPDATE: Charles Rowan was sentenced Monday along with his girlfriend at the time, Rosalinda Martinez, in a robbery at an area gun shop.

A judge handed down long sentences to both people. Rowan was given 17 to 40 years behind bars and Martinez was given six to 30 years in prison.

The 26-year-old Rowan caught the attention of the entire world after he faked his own death and just weeks later slipped up nearly ending an elderly man's life in the robbery of a small mom-and-pop gun shop, Guns 'n Stuff.

"It was my decision, I messed up, messed up really bad," Rowan told me in an exclusive jailhouse interview.  "I got put in a position where it was jeopardize my family or disappear."

Rowan says he was at the end of his rope.  He was a Mixed Martial Arts fighter.  He wasn't bringing in much money and he owed some shady characters hefty sums of cash and they were now threatening him and his family.

"It was literally brought to my attention that my girlfriend and her daughter were going to be raped in front of me and killed," said Rowan.

Rowan thought his only option was to go on the run, but a TV show about faking your own death caught the attention of his girlfriend, Rosalinda Martinez. He says she convinced him that this would fix everything.

"I figured if I died, if everyone thought I was dead it would make the situation better," said Rowan.

The plan was well underway.  His girlfriend called Rowan's family to the home the couple had been renting.  Martinez broke the bad news that "Charlie" was dead, even though Martinez knew he was in fact alive hiding upstairs.

"There wasn't a memorial or a wake, all it was, was Rosa calling us to the house to tell us my son was dead, that's all it was," said a tearful Lynn Gardner.  Gardner is Rowan's mother.

Gardner says she began to openly weep inside that home when she learned her son was now dead.

"It was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through, to think my son had been murdered," cried Gardner.

Gardner didn't know that her son hadn't been murdered and hearing the painful cries of his mother downstairs almost made Rowan scrap the entire plan and come clean.

"As soon as I heard her sobbing it killed me, I couldn't go down there and say hey everything is going to be ok," said Rowan.

Rowan was confined to an upstairs bedroom for nearly six weeks. He would peer out a small window and make late night trips to the Rite-Aid near the home. Though he kept a low profile, he says rumors started surfacing that he may in fact still be alive. His girlfriend told him that word spread to the guys he owed money and they wanted their money now.

"Word got out that I was alive, I had an ultimatum, jeopardize my family or do what I had to do," said Rowan.

Rowan, Martinez and another man, Michael Bowman devised a plan, all working together to rob Guns 'n Stuff just on the outskirts of town. Rowan beat the 71-year-old owner, Richard Robinette, over the head with a hammer during the robbery. Robinette miraculously survived and days later Rowan's mug shot appeared on TV as a person of interest. It was in that very moment that the man everyone thought to be dead was indeed alive. Rowan was back from the dead.

"What's going on?  I've been mourning and grieving all this time and now he's alive. How does that happen? What's going on? I didn't really know for sure he was alive until I seen his picture on TV that night," said an emotional Gardner.

Rowan's mother says she always knew her son would end up behind bars or even dead, but she says knowing it and living it aren't the same.

"Heartbreaking, that they could do this, especially to me, to lie to me about it," said an angry Gardner. "To find out after all this time, that he's alive, where has he been? Why hadn't he been in touch with me before now?"

Rowan pleaded guilty to the armed robbery of Guns 'n Stuff. He says he will spend his days in prison righting the wrongs in his life and turning to God.

"I am going to think about the opportunities when I get out, do something right with my life," declared Rowan.

His mom, Gardner, hopes her internal fight to rid herself of the anger she feels towards Charlie will finally come to light.

"I am never going to see him on the outside again, so in a way, yeah, he might as well be dead," said a tearful Gardner.

Charles Rowan will remain behind bars in the Gladwin County Jail until he is sentenced Monday, Nov. 25. Rosalinda Martinez will be sentenced the same day and Michael Bowman will learn his sentence on Jan. 13.

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