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Amanda Bach's father first witness

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By KEVIN NEVERS

The first witness in the murder trial of Dustin McCowan took the stand late Tuesday afternoon: William Bach Jr., father of the victim, Amanda Bach.

Under direct examination by Porter County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Cheryl Polarek, Bach recalled spending much of Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011, with his daughter, who went missing in the early morning hours of Friday, Sept. 16.

Bach testified that, during lunch with Amanda at Subway that day, he urged her again to make a clean break with McCowan, whom she had stopped formally dating some months earlier. “The kid’s going nowhere,” Bach remembered telling her.

Amanda—wearing black pants and a gray lacey top—left their home around 10 p.m. that Thursday, after telling him that she was meeting her cousin at a bowling alley in Merrillville, Bach testified.

Polarek then asked Bach about Amanda’s curfew: 1 a.m., only recently extended from midnight. “If she was running late, she would call,” Bach said. “We wouldn’t accept a text.” In any case, it seldom happened that Amanda did run late, he added.

Questioned by Polarek, Bach described the events on being informed, after he’d gone to bed, that Amanda’s Pontiac had been found abandoned at Dean’s General Store on Ind. 130 and that her current whereabouts were unknown. Bach said that he went to Dean’s, immediately observed that the driver’s seat of the Pontiac was too far back for Amanda to have driven it, and also noticed that, while Amanda’s purse and cell phone charger were still in the car, her cell phone was not. “That phone never left her side,” Bach said. “It was either in her back pocket or in her hand.”

Bach led a tow truck, hauling the Pontiac, back to his home, then promptly returned to the scene to begin his own search for Amanda. At some point he contacted Amanda’s cousin, who now told him that Amanda had in fact gone to McCowan’s house. Were you surprised? Polarek asked. “Not really surprised,” Bach replied. “Surprised she lied to me.”

From Allison Bolde—a mutual friend of Amanda’s and McCowan’s—Bach obtained McCowan’s cell number, which he provided a Porter County Sheriff’s Police officer.

After “knocking on doors along Ind. 130,” Bach went to McCowan’s house, he testified. McCowan’s first words, on meeting him at the door, as Bach remembered them: “Did they print the car?” McCowan’s father’s first words: “Did they process the car?”

“I’m shaking my head,” Bach said. “Like, ‘What are you talking about?’”

McCowan, Bach also testified, “wouldn’t look me in the eye, he was acting nervous”; Elliott McCowan, Dustin’s father, was “cocky.”

“I felt suspicious,” Bach said. “I didn’t feel good.”

Bach further testified that he was the one who first made contact with Linda Phillips, the neighbor who reported hearing a male voice, in the early morning hours, saying “Amanda, get up,” and a female voice saying “I can’t believe this is happening.”

Bach concluded his direct examination by describing the events on Saturday, Sept. 17, when Amanda’s body was discovered.

Cross-Examination

Defense attorney Nick Barnes began his cross-examination of Bach by asking him whether he was aware that he originally told investigators that Amanda had left home that Thursday night wearing jeans and a white jacket, not black pants and a gray lacey top as he had just testified.

Bach said that Amanda had been wearing the jeans and jacket earlier in the day on Thursday and that he was unaware of what he’d first told investigators.

Under cross-examination about Amanda’s Pontiac, Bach testified that he did enter it at Dean’s to examine the contents of his daughter’s purse, that he believes he’d locked the car after it had been towed to their home in Portage, and that he did not attempt to start it and so can’t say whether the engine was operating.

Were you aware that Amanda in the past had had car trouble and called other people for help? Barnes asked.

Bach said that he was not aware.

Are you aware that Amanda in the past had called other adults “besides you” when she’d run into a bit of trouble?

“I think she did,” Bach replied.

Do you recall Amanda’s leaving home that Thursday night wearing five shirts?

“She always layered,” Bach said in response. “I’ve seen her wearing three or four, these thin lacey shirts.”

Barnes then asked Bach whether, at the time he spoke with Dustin and Elliott McCowan, it had yet occurred to him that possibly the worst thing might have happened to his daughter.

“At that point the worst hadn’t occurred to me,” Bach said. “It didn’t seem possible. Amanda was responsible. It was unlike Amanda.”

Probing Bach’s feelings about his conversation with Dustin and Elliott McCowan, Barnes suggested that, as a police officer, Elliott might simply have asked “a good legal question” when he inquired whether the Pontiac had been processed.

“I guess for a police officer,” Bach said. “At first I didn’t know what ‘process’ meant.”

Finally, Barnes asked whether it was possible that, at some point, after he’d gone to bed, “Amanda had come home without you knowing and left again.”

Bach allowed that, in principle, it was possible.

“Could she have changed her clothes and added some layers?”

In principle, it was possible, Bach replied.

 

Posted 2/6/2013