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
• 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,
• 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
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
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.
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