GPS locates of Dustin McCowan’s cell phone activity in the early morning
hours of Friday, Sept. 16, put him, or at least his phone, at the site where
Amanda Bach’s body would be found some 36 hours later.
That was the testimony on Wednesday of the lead investigator in the Bach
murder case, at a bond hearing before Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa.
Alexa denied McCowan’s motion for bond.
In his direction examination of Det. Com. Jeff Biggs, McCowan’s attorney,
Bob Harper, opened the proceeding with a point-by-point review of the
probable cause affidavit on which the murder charge was initially based.
Harper’s goal: to show that the Porter County Sheriff’s Police “jumped the
gun,” as he contended, in focusing on McCowan in the hours after Bach’s
disappearance and subsequent discovery of her body.
Under questioning, Biggs stated that investigators still do not know where
Bach was murdered, either at the “place of her final rest” or elsewhere;
never undertook to estimate the time of her death; and found nothing
incriminating McCowan at the final resting place, at McCowan’s home,
or in his luggage or on his person when taken into custody on Saturday,
Sept. 17, in Bloomington.
Biggs further stated, under direct examination, that McCowan’s neighbor—who
told investigators she heard a male voice, early in the morning of Sept. 16,
telling Amanda to “get up”—never actually identified that voice as McCowan’s.
Biggs, moreover, prodded by Harper, conceded that the statement of a
juvenile girl—who around 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 16 saw McCowan leave with his
father, a Crown Point police officer, in his father’s squad car and drive
north on C.R. 625W—“really doesn’t add much,” as Harper put it, “to the
probable cause affidavit.”
Biggs did say that investigators, while executing a search warrant at
McCowan’s home on Sept. 17-18, found a “small red stain on the stairway,”
which was swabbed and sent to the FBI lab for processing; a “small black
ribbon” in the McCowan front yard, also collected although its origin is
unknown; and an unidentified “clear liquid” found on the vinyl-covered rear
seat of McCowan’s father’s Crown Point squad car. Similarly collected for
testing were the shoes worn by McCowan when taken into custody. But to date
the results of those tests are still pending, Biggs said.
Harper did elicit this piece of information from Biggs: investigators knew
before filing their probable cause affidavit—but made no mention of it in
the affidavit—that McCowan’s father was unable to find the .38 caliber
revolver which he customarily kept under the sofa in the living room.
Yet there was really only one revelation in Harper’s direction examination
of Biggs: on Nov. 4—a month and a half after the probable cause affidavit
was filed—investigators received GPS locates on McCowan’s cell phone
activity on Sept. 16.
Those locates put McCowan—or his cell—in three places in the early morning
hours of Sept. 16, Biggs stated:
•Around 1:30 a.m., near Bach’s final resting place.
•Around 2:30 a.m., on the road between his home on C.R. 625W in Union
Township and Dean’s General Store on Ind. 130, where Bach’s abandoned car
would be found less than a hour later.
•Around 3:00 a.m., at Dean’s General Store, 23 minutes before her car was
Under cross-examination by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Cheryl Polarek, Biggs
also revealed the following:
•Bloodhound: On an unspecified day after McCowan’s arrest—but
probably on Sept. 24, during a massive ground search—a bloodhound tracked
Bach’s scent from the property line of McCowan’s home to her final resting
place. The bloodhound also tracked McCowan’s scent from that resting place
to Dean’s General Store. The bloodhound did not track a “neutral third
party’s” scent, Biggs said.
•Eyewitness? On an unspecified day after McCowan’s arrest, a man
reported that, early in the morning of Sept. 16, he’d been driving
northbound on C.R. 650W—the likely route to Dean’s General Store—when he
saw, walking southbound on the east side of the roadway, a male subject.
That man described the subject as a “Justin Timberlake look-a-like” and told
investigators, after seeing McCowan’s photo in the newspaper, that he’s
“100-percent certain” that the subject he saw was McCowan.
•Bullets: McCowan’s father provided, at investigators’ request, a
sample of the ammunition used in the missing .38 caliber revolver. The round
provided—a copper-jacketed hollow point with a gold center—is similar to the
medium-caliber round recovered from Bach’s body, Biggs stated.
•Shirt: Investigators found, along the Canadian Railroad tracks west
of C.R. 625W, an orange shirt which showed little sign of exposure to the
elements, Biggs stated. The significance of the shirt, Polarek said: McCowan
was captured by a Speedway video camera wearing an orange shirt on the
morning of Sept. 16, before he left for Bloomington.
Interviews with friends and acquaintances of both McCowan and Bach had this
information for investigators, Biggs told Polarek:
•Only hours after Bach had disappeared—and before he left for Bloomington—McCowan
was voicing his belief that “she was probably dead” and that he “couldn’t
believe that she was probably dead.” The mother of one of his friends, whom
McCowan visited prior to leaving for Bloomington, reported that McCowan was
upset and excused himself at one point to vomit in her toilet.
•Another friend recalled in an interview that, as long as a “couple years
ago,” he and McCowan were walking the CN tracks just north of his home when
McCowan pointed south—in the direction of Bach’s final resting place—and
said “If I ever needed to hide anything, that’s where I’d hide it.”
•Some of McCowan’s acquaintances reported that he has “an anger problem.”
•Other of his acquaintances have seen “him in possession of weapons.”
In addition, Biggs made particular note of two apparent inconsistencies in
McCowan’s statements to investigators and in communications to others:
•At 4:24 a.m. on Sept. 16, McCowan told an officer who contacted him that he
had called Bach earlier but been unable to reach her. But, Biggs stated,
phone records indicate that McCowan did not place any calls to Bach’s phone
until 4:36 a.m.
•During the roughly 90 minutes when GPS locates put McCowan, or his cell,
outside his home and at locations linked to the murder—Bach’s final resting
place, the road to Dean’s General Store, and at Dean’s itself—McCowan was
texting a neighbor two doors down to the effect that he was busy at home
doing chores. In that same 90-minute period, Biggs stated, McCowan texted
his father to the effect that he was not at home but at the neighbor’s two
Since the investigation began, over 90 pieces of evidence have been
collected and sent to the FBI for testing, Biggs told Polarek.
Search warrants have been obtained and executed for the phone records of 17
Upwards of 150 people have been interviewed—most of them friends and
acquaintances of McCowan and Bach—and investigators have failed to contact
only three persons whom they still wish to interview. Those three, Biggs
stated, have been “uncooperative.” In general, he added, “one friend would
lead to another friend who would lead to another.” The chief purpose of the
interviews: investigators are asking “about problems with Amanda Bach,
On a night about two weeks after Bach’s body was found, Biggs stated—at
roughly the same time as the events in question—he ran the route from Dean’s
General Store to McCowan’s home. It took him 19 minutes, 44 seconds. Traffic
was very light and only one vehicle passed him. Other officers manned
various points along the route to ask any motorists whom they encountered
whether they were out and about early in the morning of Sept. 16.
Harper argued for bond on the grounds that investigators “jumped the gun,”
“haven’t gotten any physical evidence yet” to implicate McCowan, and can’t
even say where Bach was murdered. Instead, they focused on McCowan largely
because he was the last person to see Bach alive and because of the
proximity of her final resting place to McCowan’s home, he said. “The
presumption of guilt is not strong,” Harper concluded.
Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Frost, on the other hand—in
summarizing Biggs’ testimony—said this: “We have not scratched the surface
of evidence in this case.” He added that “bond is not an entitlement” and
that “the presumption of guilt is strong.”
Alexa, in denying McCowan’s motion for bond, ruled that the state has shown
McCowan had the opportunity to commit the crime and could be guilty and that
“a jury verdict can be based on circumstantial evidence.”
“Today justice was set forth for Amanda,” her father, William Bach, said
outside the courthouse after Alexa’s ruling. “Our daughter can never seek
justice for herself, so it is our duty to seek it for Amanda. We’re
confident justice will be served.”
McCowan appeared in court in an orange jail jumpsuit, his hands and feet
shackled, guarded closely by two uniformed deputies, one directly behind him
throughout the hearing, the other to his side.
Two plainclothes officers stood at the back of the courtroom, as did Sheriff
The courtroom was filled to capacity, with Bach’s friends and family on one
side, McCowan’s on the other. The proceeding was orderly throughout.