Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Defense: 'Science proves McCowan innocence'

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

One half of a defense team said that their client Dustin McCowan is innocent in the murder of Amanda Bach because the state has not been able to find a single link to this “horrific” crime.

Following closing arguments made by the prosecution, defense attorney Nick Barnes asked the jury not to “get caught up in emotions” and stated several points supporting the theory McCowan was not guilty based on testimony:

• The prosecution has never been able to establish a crime scene of where and when Bach was killed, Barnes said.

• Friend Allison Bolde was at McCowan’s house Friday, Sept. 16, 2011 between the hours of 4:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and saw no evidence of a clean up. She and McCowan called people they were not even that close to asking if anyone had seen Bach. McCowan even asked a Speedway cashier at 5:40 that morning if they had seen her and gave a description, Barnes said.

• Michael Steege of Union Twp. said he saw someone walking south on CR 650 W at 2:25 on Sept. 16 with a maroon hooded sweatshirt and curly hair that resembled pop singer Justin Timberlake. The height specifications given by Steege didn’t match that of McCowan. McCowan “never” has had curly hair nor has he ever owned a maroon sweatshirt, Barnes said.

• McCowan had more than once encouraged his lifelong best friend Brandon Hutchins to date Bach, Barnes said. Hutchins testified he had started a dating relationship with Bach a few days before Sept. 16.

• The defendant’s father, Elliot McCowan, testified that as many as 14 people had access to his Smith & Wesson .38 Special Airlite which he discovered missing after Bach’s body was found and police never questioned them. By him mentioning the gun, it shows that there was no attempt of cover-up, Barnes said.

• The co-owner of Blythe’s Sports Shop said his two locations in Porter or Lake County sell 5,000 handguns loaded with ammunition in the .38 caliber family annually, Barnes said.

• The witness, Linda Phillips, who said she heard a male and a female voice outside her window at about 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 16, that spoke phrases “Amanda, get up” and “I can’t believe this is happening” has never identified who said those words, Barnes said.

• A firearm and tool mark examiner for the FBI testified that the .38 caliber family bullet that severed Bach’s spinal cord could have come from a wide variety of guns. He inspected the screw embedded in Bach’s tire and it had no tool markings and he said the lightning-shaped cut in the tire could have been caused by the wheel rim, Barnes said.

• FBI specialists said the only traces of McCowan’s DNA on the items examined came from his cell phone and the orange shirt he was wearing when he was booked into the Porter County Jail. There were no fingerprints of McCowan’s found, including in Bach’s vehicle, Barnes said.

• Bach’s body had been wrapped around the base of a tree appearing to be “staged” by more than one person, Barnes said.

• Police never collected fly eggs nor the bluish substance behind Bach’s right knee. The defense’s entomology expert Neal Haskell testified that maggots should have been showing up by the time of the autopsy if Bach was murdered in the early hours of Sept. 16. It was more likely the body was placed by the railroad tracks in the evening hours on Sept. 16 while McCowan was at I.U., Barnes said.

• The cell phone “best estimated locations” were inaccurate several times and were off with McCowan’s actual locations by more than the length of a football field.

• A newspaper carrier testified that a pair of flip-flops along the railroad tracks had been moved to different locations each night of Sept. 16-18, including the time that McCowan was at Indiana University in Bloomington or in custody, Barnes said.

• There have been no “solid” alibis established for Shelby Reilly, who testified she was “a little bit” jealous of Bach’s relationship with McCowan, or for Nick Prochno of Wheeler who led police to where Bach’s body was, Barnes said.

• Jordan Walbright and Brandon Hutchins testified McCowan had shown concern for Bach and was crying after learning her body had been found, Barnes said.

• Barnes said that McCowan’s choice to go to I.U. was just his way of coping with a hardship and that people in general have their own ways of dealing with such evens.

• Barnes said he found it hard to believe that McCowan would dump Bach’s body less than 300 yards from his house in broad view. “Someone wanted her to be found,” he said.

• Barnes said the state had not determined a motive based on the pregnancy scare because Hutchins testified McCowan never spoke of it again when Hutchins asked him to “drop it” after a test determined she was not pregnant.

The “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” boat

At points during Barnes’ arguments, he accused the state of being deceptive in its presentation of the “facts.”

Witnesses like the newspaper carrier and Reilly were on the state’s witness list but were ultimately called by the defense because the state was “holding the whole picture from you” or covering “shameful” police work, Barnes told the jury. Like the floor mats in Bach’s car that were destroyed by PCSP, he said, which could have pointed to another suspect.

“They destroyed evidence and that’s deception,” Barnes said.

As he proceeded, Barnes described the prosecution’s task of proving McCowan guilty beyond reasonable doubt to that of a ship full of holes. The holes symbolize the lack of scientific evidence in the state’s case, Barnes said.

According to Barnes, the biggest hole in the “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” boat is failing to investigate Prochno as a suspect.

Reasons for this involve reports of a silver SUV parked at the power station near the railroad tracks on Sept. 17 that matched the description of a vehicle that Prochno drove, Barnes said. The headlights that one witness reported seeing at Dean’s General Store in the early morning hours of Sept. 16 could be a match for Prochno’s Nissan Xterra. Another witness said she had seen a tall, slender middle-aged man which Barnes said could match a description of Prochno.

He also said Prochno was “not a fan” of McCowan and that he had been up still at 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 16.

And, Barnes pointed out, the police had not bothered to take Prochno’s fingerprints or DNA or find out if he had a dog. Dog hairs had been found on Bach’s cadaver that the FBI confirmed were not hairs belonging to McCowan’s dog.

Barnes also posed the question of why investigators hadn’t conducted further investigations after FBI analysis confirmed the dog hair analysis did not link McCowan to the crime.

“Science will set Dustin McCowan free,” Barnes concluded.

Rebuttal

Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Frost said in all his years, he has never been accused of deceiving a jury.

Frost said that the prosecution was not deceptive because the defense had access to all the records the prosecution had.

He also said that hiding witnesses is a “farcical allegation” because if it were true they would have to call all 150 or so witnesses on their list.

Frost also refuted the defense’s claims that offers were made to the jail inmates that testified because they had already been sentenced.

Frost said the police found no connection to Prochno, confirmed his alibi with his fiancée, and said he led police to where the body was because his fiancée had seen “teens hanging out” by the railroad tracks.

Referring to testimony by the FBI, Frost said just because McCowan’s DNA wasn’t found on certain items does not exclude him, “it just means his DNA wasn’t there.”

 

Posted 2/27/2013