He was 30, recently married and the father of two young girls when police arrested him for a series of sex crimes that he said then -- and still says -- he didn't commit.
"There's not a day that goes by that I don't cry in my cell. I miss my family. I miss my mom. I miss my brother," said Bower, who is incarcerated in Dannemora, N.Y., at the Clinton Correctional Facility.
Two women were raped at gunpoint here in Queens and Nassau County. Around that time, two teenage girls said they also had been raped in a similar attack.
Police released this sketch to a local newspaper, the spitting image of Bower. The girls, however, later told police they lied about the incident and the case was dropped.
But the damage was done. People, including Bower's ex-father in law , already had called police to say the sketch looked like Bower. The evidence police did find - a white shirt with possible bodily fluids of the attacker on it - was mysteriously destroyed.
"I'm asking the district attorney office to do the right thing," said Bower recently. "Let this stop you made a mistake."
Local, state and federal judges have all rejected Bower's pleas for exoneration. Yet in December, the head of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's Conviction Review Bureau issued a letter saying it's "highly unlikely that Bower committed the crimes."
The D.A.s in Queens and Nassau fired back saying they weren't contacted about the case. The head of the bureau, Thomas Schellhammer, was replaced a few days ago. The letter remains in Bower's file.
"I must have read that letter 50 times," said Bower.
In recent years, high-level law enforcement and the detective who arrested Bower have come to his defense, saying they had the wrong man.
"Why would all these law enforcement people believe me in me if I was just a drop guilty," said Bower. "They believe in me because they know a wrong happened."
Bower is up for parole in May. But if he is released, he still would have to register as the highest level sex offender.
His family, meanwhile, stands behind him.
"They got the wrong man, definitely wrong man, said his mother, Margaret Bower.
His daughter Kristy said her father is a victim and she won't give up until he is exonerated.
"There's no way this man can suffer as long as he has," she said. "The least that New York can do is exonerate him. Just give him the freedom he deserves."
Bower can't even imagine what freedom would be like. "I'm afraid to go anywhere, across the street ... I didn't do anything to anybody."
"I want these victims to know that I didn't do nothing," he said.