Alice McGowan was the first wife of serial killer Phillip Jablonski. The two met in high school, and they were married in 1968 after he returned from a military deployment overseas.
Jablonski, who died while on death row in 2019, was convicted of first-degree murder in the state of California in the deaths of Carol Spadoni and Eva Petersen in 1991. Jablonski was sentenced to death, and an automatic appeal filed in his case details the testimony of McGowan, his ex-wife. You can read the appeal in full here. He was connected to the killings of five women. Read more about Spadoni here.
Jablonski’s story is being told on Investigation Discovery’s Serial Killer Week. It airs Thursday, September 3, at 9 p.m. EST.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Alice McGowan & Phillip Jablonski Were High School Sweethearts & Lived Together at Fort Bliss, Texas
Alice McGowan and Phillip Jablonski were high school sweethearts, but their relationship quickly turned into a nightmare for McGowan. She testified about their volatile relationship and abuse at her ex-husband’s murder trial, which was detailed in an automatic appeal filed in his case.
McGowan testified that she and Jablonski met in high school. Jablonski joined the military, and he was sent overseas. They were married in 1968 after he returned. For two months, McGowan lived with Jablonski’s parents in California, and then joined him at Fort Bliss in Texas, where he was posted.
In Texas, he would soon become violent with her, according to her testimony.
“Alice McGowan was defendant’s first wife; they had met in high school,” the appeal said. “After high school, defendant joined the military and was sent overseas. They married upon his return in 1968. McGowan lived for two months with defendant’s parents in California until she joined him in Texas, where he was posted.”
2. McGowan Testified Jablonski Abused Her & Tried to Drown Her
Jablonski became severely abusive with McGowan early in their marriage, she testified. While he was stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas, he became violent during sex. He put a pillow over her face and tried to suffocate her, she said, according to the automatic appeal filed in his case.
At another time, he grabbed her by the throat and choked her until she lost consciousness. Another time, she was bathing, and he went into the bathroom and tried to drown her. Once, when she was pregnant, he choked her until his mother convinced him to stop, she said.
On one occasion, he put a pillow over her face while they were having intercourse and tried to suffocate her,” the appeal said. “On other occasions, he grabbed her throat and strangled her until she became unconscious. Once, he came into the bathroom while she was bathing and tried to drown her. On another occasion, while she was pregnant, he began to strangle her, until his mother convinced him to stop.”
3. McGowan Told Authorities Jablonski Was a Changed Man After His Military Deployment
McGowan told authorities that the man she fell in love with was changed after he returned from his overseas military deployment in 1968. She said he had been a quiet man, but at Fort Bliss in Texas, he was violent and abusive. He choked her on multiple occasions, including when she was pregnant, she testified at trial. He once tried to drown her in a bathtub, she said.
According to the appeal filed in his case, it was unclear where exactly he served when he was sent overseas. He said he had served in Vietnam, and his military records showed he received the Vietnam Service Medal.
McGowan and Jablonski were married for less than one year. He met another woman in November, 1968, and she testified he raped her on their first date. He was taking medication through the Department of Veterans Affairs, but continued to exhibit strange behavior, like forgetting their children on a shopping trip.
“According to his first wife, Alice McGowan, when defendant returned from overseas to Fort Bliss, Texas, he was a changed man. Before, he had been a quiet person, but now he was ‘really mean’ to McGowan and she ‘wasn’t sure all the time whether he was really with it or not,'” the appeal said.
4. McGowan Left Jablonski After Less Than One Year of Marriage
McGowan and Jablonski were separated in their first year of marriage. He met another woman in November, 1968. On their first date, he raped her, according to the automatic appeal filed in his case.
She did not report the rape because she was ashamed and embarrassed, she testified. She became pregnant, and in July, 1969, Jablonski left the military and moved back to California with the woman. He was violent and abusive, and allegedly threatened her with a gun when she asked him to stop during sex.
She left Jablonski in 1972, according to Psychopedia: The Wikipedia Serial Killer Files.
She testified she was afraid that if Jablonski killed her, their children would be left alone with him. On the day she left, he tried to hit her with a frying pan filled with grease. He missed, and she hit him with the frying pan, then fled with their children.
5. McGowan Briefly Lived With Jablonski’s Parents & Trial Testimony Said His Father Was Abusive
McGowan lived briefly with Jablonski’s parents in California before moving with him to Texas, where he was stationed. Trial testimony indicated Jablonski was abused as a child, both physically and sexually.
“Statements made by defendant’s sister indicated that defendant’s father was violent toward both defendant’s mother and defendant and that defendant had been sexually abused as a child,” the appeal said.
His sister testified that Jablonski once attacked her and she feared he would rape her. She told her parents what happened, and their father beat Jablonski, she said. At the time, she was 14 and he was 16. She testified that he put a rope around her neck and said “I’m going to get some of that off of you.”
She said he suddenly stopped, and began apologizing and crying.