She Testified on Deathbed After She Was Set on Fire by Ex: Inside Judy Malinowski's Final Moments

Bonnie Bowes tells PEOPLE exclusively about daughter Judy Malinowski's final moments — and her determination to testify against her killer

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Judy Malinowski and her daughters.Photo:

Judy's Foundation

Bonnie Bowes still remembers the last words she ever said to her daughter, Judy Malinowski.

A victim of an unthinkable attack, Judy spent two years in a hospital bed after she was burned alive by her ex-boyfriend outside an Ohio gas station. But she was determined to survive long enough to see justice served, and shortly before her death, she recorded videotaped testimony that was later played at trial — becoming the one of the first people in U.S. history to testify at her own murder trial.

Judy, a former homecoming queen who later in life survived cancer, was “friends with everybody” she met, her mother says in this week’s issue of PEOPLE.

Bowes, 60, details her daughter’s determination to cling to life so that justice could be carried out against Michael Slager, the man responsible for the deadly 2015 attack.

RELATED: She Was Set on Fire by Her Boyfriend. Her Hospital Bed Testimony, Months Before She Died, Led to His Conviction

Bowes says her daughter “said she was tired” after two years in the hospital, seven resuscitations, and more than 50 agonizing surgeries to keep her alive. “She hung on for me, her girls, and for justice,” her mother says, recalling her final days.

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Judy Malinowski testifies in court.


Judy died from organ failure in June 2017 as Bowes held her hand one last time.

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“I said, ‘A part of me will go with you, Judy.’ I said, ‘And a part of you will always live here with me,’” Bowes says. “And I said, ‘I'll hold your hand until Jesus takes your other hand.’ “

Ten seconds after Bowes let go of Judy’s hand that her daughter stopped breathing, she says.

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“We tried, but she had overcome all the odds,” Bowes says. “They had told her that she had superseded the odds.”

Michael Slager.Franklin County Common Court

RELATED: Mom of Woman Set on Fire by Fiancé Describes Heroic 2-Year Fight: 'She Defied All The Odds'

Judy’s story is the subject of MTV’s new documentary, The Fire That Took Her, streaming now on Paramount+. Judy’s heroic efforts led to a conviction for Slager that landed him in prison for life.

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Bonnie Bowes, Judy Malinowski.

Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY NETWORK

And Judy’s family carried on the fight, Bowes says. Her daughters Kaylyn and Madison, sister Danielle Gorman, brother Patrick Bowes, and mother Bonnie came together to push for tougher legislation in Ohio for assaults using an accelerant that leave victims seriously disfigured. And on September 7, 2017, Malinowski’s family stood together at the Ohio Statehouse as “Judy’s Law” was officially enacted.

“She showed unbelievable strength,” Bowes told PEOPLE days after her daughter died. “I really don’t know how she did it.”

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