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Lead detective testifies at McCowan trial

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By KEVIN NEVERS

The head of the PCSP Detective Bureau took the stand on Thursday to discuss the extent and depth of the Amanda Bach murder investigation.

Under Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Frost’s direct examination, Det. Com. Jeff Biggs provided a time line of his involvement in the case, beginning late on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 16, 2011, when he was summoned from a charity event in Illinois to direct what at the time was still a missing-person investigation.

Biggs testified to the multiple ground and article searches conducted before and after Bach’s body was found on Saturday, Sept. 17; the assignments he gave his detectives, including a search of the Bach home in Portage and one of Allison Boldie’s vehicle; and his own experiment, two weeks after the murder, when at 2 a.m. one night he jogged the 2.4 miles from Dean’s General Store on Ind. 130 to the McCowan residence.

How long did that jog take? Frost asked.

Nineteen minutes, 44 seconds. “It was very dark in the area,” Biggs added, and only one vehicle passed him.

Over the course of the investigation, Biggs also stated, more than 150 people were interviewed.

“Was your sole focus on Dustin McCowan?” Frost put it to him.

“No, it was not,” Biggs said. An ex-boyfriend of Bach’s was interviewed and others as well. “As we learned more about her, we started checking with them, checking their alibis and eliminating people as suspects.”

“Did any evidence point to anyone else in the case but Dustin McCowan?” Frost concluded.

“No, it did not,” Biggs said.

Defense attorney John Vouga’s cross examination of Biggs was lengthy. Its basic thrust, as Vouga asked Biggs early on: “You never thought someone else might have done it?”

“Nothing pointed to anyone else,” Biggs replied.

Among other things, Vouga asked the following: did you have Linda Phillips’ ears and eyes tested? Did you send evidence technicians to investigate abandoned or vacant homes in Wheeler, near Dean’s? Did you review video surveillance footage at the Portage Wal-Mart after an acquaintance of Bach’s reported seeing her there in the company of a male and female, sometime after she was presumed to have been killed? Do you know how many .38, .357, and 9 mm handguns are stolen in Porter County every year? Did you personally follow up with a witness who reported seeing a vehicle parked at Dean’s at 1:15 a.m.. Friday, Sept. 16, outside of which a tall, slender, middle-aged man was standing?

To all of those questions Biggs answered in the negative.

Vouga probed several issues in more detail, including officers’ efforts to establish alibis for registered sex offenders living in the area. “Isn’t it correct that none of them had clear-cut alibis?” Vouga asked.

Because officers made contact with them some time after the events in question, Biggs said, “it was difficult” for them to recall their whereabouts exactly.

“Why didn’t you scour vacant homes in Wheeler?” Vouga asked.

“You just can’t walk into an abandoned home,” Biggs said in response.

Was it your decision not to bag Bach’s hands when her body was recovered? Vouga asked.

Biggs said that it was his decision, made after consulting with Det. Sgt. William Young, his chief evidence technician, and that he made it so as not to lose possible trace evidence.

You didn’t secure the scene where Bach’s body was found until after the autopsy was completed? Vouga asked.

“There was no reason to secure it,” Biggs said. In any case, at that point, it was “decided to focus” on the McCowan residence.

Why did you order destroyed two vehicle floor mats found on the side of C.R. 650W? Vouga wanted to know.

Biggs stated that an FBI technicians determined that brownish stains on the mats were not blood. “They weren’t relevant to the case.”

“What possessed you to have evidence destroyed?” Vouga pressed.

“It was not evidence,” Biggs said. “It was garbage.”

You didn’t look into the alibi of Nicholas Prochno either, Vouga asked.

“That’s not true,” Biggs said. “We confirmed his alibi with his fiancee.”

A juror did want to know what evidence led the PCSP to charge McCowan with murder in the first place.

Biggs cited five things: McCowan was the last known person to see Bach alive; he made inconsistent statements after Bach went missing; the driver’s seat in Bach’s car was in a far-back position; the proximity of Bach’s body when discovered to the McCowan residence; and Linda Phillips’ statements about the voices heard through her bedroom window.

 

 

 

Posted 2/15/2013