Chesterton Tribune

Amanda Bach's body found; Union Township man suspected of murder

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The Porter County Sheriff’s Police was expecting a Union Township man to be charged sometime today in connection with the death of Amanda Bach, whose body was found Saturday after an intensive search near a railroad right-of-way in the Wheeler area.

Dustin McCowan, 18, was being held at the Porter County Jail on “suspicion of murder,” police said, but as of deadline today no formal charge had been filed against him.

Bach, 19, was last seen in McCowan’s company after leaving her home in Portage around 10 p.m. on Thursday, and her car, a gold Pontiac, found abandoned around 3:30 a.m. on Friday at Dean’s General Store at 626 Ind. 130 in Wheeler, Sheriff David Lain said at a press conference on Sunday. “The car had a flat tire, the driver’s side door was standing open, and Amanda’s purse and its contents were inside.”

A “massive ground search” was subsequently organized, after Bach’s family reported not having heard from her “all day Friday” or being able to reach her by cell, Lain said.

At approximately 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, a search team found Bach’s body along the Canadian National railroad right-of-way near C.R. 625W, about two miles from where her car was found and “roughly 300 yards” from McCowan’s residence in the 300 north block of C.R. 625W, Lain said.

“There was trauma to Amanda’s body,” Lain said, but the cause of death has not been established. A forensic autopsy could be conducted as early as today.

McCowan himself was taken into custody in Bloomington by the Indiana University Police Department and transported to Porter County early Sunday morning. McCowan had been “visiting friends” in Bloomington, in what appeared to be a “planned trip,” Lain said. Det. Com. Jeff Biggs added that investigators learned of McCowan’s whereabouts over the weekend in the normal course of interviews.

Bach was a graduate of Portage High School, McCowan of Wheeler High School, and the two appear to have been acquainted through mutual friends. “We don’t know of any specific relationship” between the two, Lain said.

Investigators were tight-lipped on Sunday about the status of their investigation and Lain in particular emphasized the need at this point to withhold salient information. “It’s still relatively early,” he said. “We absolutely have to protect the integrity of this investigation.”

Thus Lain would not comment on the nature of the trauma to the body, the condition of the body or its position when discovered, the estimated time of death, whether investigators believe death occurred where the body was discovered or somewhere else and the body subsequently moved, or whether they believe Bach was sexually assaulted.

Biggs did say that the PCSP has been in contact with other law enforcement agencies for assistance, local, state, and federal. “We’re doing everything we can to make this a thorough investigation.”

Volunteers from more than 20 police, fire, and EMS agencies participated in the search on Saturday—including two Porter firefighters with ATVs and seven Liberty Township Volunteer firefighters—as well as more than 100 members of the community. The Lake County Sheriff’s Police also contributed its helicopter to the search on Friday and Saturday.

Lain declined to say, though, who found the body.

“I want to extend our deepest sympathies to the family of Amanda Bach on behalf of the Porter County Sheriff’s Department, all of the public safety agencies who are assisting with this investigation, and I offer my personal empathy as a parent,” Lain said. “In addition, we can never adequately express our gratitude to all of the professional agencies as well as private citizens who have played such a significant role in recovering Amanda for those who love her.”

Dr. Carlos Cespedes, Bach’s uncle and the family’s spokesman, also thanked those involved in the effort. “Everyone in Amanda’s family loved her very much,” he said. “Her smile lit up the room whenever she walked in. She was too beautiful for the world and we all miss you very much.”

Lain did urge anyone with “knowledge of the events related to this case” to call the PCSP Detective Bureau at (219) 477-3140 or the WeTip hotline at (800) 782-7463.

 

Posted 9/19/2011