Chesterton Tribune

Amanda Bach died of gunshot wound to the throat; Dustin McCowan formally charged

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Amanda Bach died of a single gunshot wound through the throat.

The bullet—fired from the front—severed Bach’s C4 vertebra and death was instantaneous.

Those are the findings of a forensic autopsy conducted late on Monday in Mishawaka, Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris told the Chesterton Tribune today.

Harris declined to comment any further on the results of the autopsy, however.

Meanwhile, also late on Monday, Dustin McCowan, 18, of 338N 625W in Union Township, was formally charged with Bach’s murder.

Murder is a Class A felony punishable by a term of 20 to 50 years.

Discovery of Car

In a probable cause affidavit filed in support of that murder charge, Capt. Larry Sheets has detailed the case against McCowan, beginning with the discovery of Bach’s car at 3:23 a.m. Friday in the parking lot of Dean’s General Store at 626 Ind. 130 in Union Township, approximately two miles from the site where Bach’s body was found and roughly 300 yards from McCowan’s home.

The discovery of the 2006 Pontiac was made by the owner of Dean’s, it was parked on the east side of the store and facing southwest, its four-way hazard lights were on, its driver’s side door was open, and its left front tire was flat, Sheets stated. Inside was Bach’s purse “with what appeared to be all its contents” with the exception of her cell phone.

Later on Friday, at 5:30 p.m., a Times motor route driver advised police that the parking lot of Dean’s General Store was empty at 2:15 a.m., only 68 minutes before the Pontiac was discovered there.

The officer dispatched to Dean’s General Store promptly contacted Bach’s father, William Bach, the Pontiac’s registered owner, and he arrived on scene, Sheets stated. At around 10 p.m. Thursday, Bach advised, his daughter had told him that she planned to “hang out at the Stardust with her cousin” but that her curfew was 1 a.m. and she hadn’t returned home.

William Bach offered the responding officer two other pieces of information. First, he “advised that the driver’s seat (of the Pontiac) was further back than normal, indicating that a ‘guy or larger person’ may have been driving the vehicle,” Sheets stated.

Second, William Bach “thought that she could have been with her friend, Dustin McCowan, earlier,” Sheets stated.

First Contact with McCowan

At that point the responding officer contacted McCowan, who told him that Amanda Bach had been at his home from 11 p.m. to around 1:30 a.m.

“Dustin advised that he repeatedly told Amanda to text him when she got home,” Sheets stated. “Dustin advised that he never received that text. Dustin told (the responding officer) that he tried calling Amanda several times since she left his house.”

McCowan added that Amanda Bach left his house alone, that he was unaware of her Pontiac’s having been stranded at Dean’s General Store, and that he had “contacted several people, including Amanda’s cousin, and no one was able to provide Amanda’s location.”

Sheets did note in his affidavit, with respect to the position of the Pontiac’s driver’s seat, that Amanda Bach was 5’ 2’’ in height and McCowan 6’ 2’’ in height.

Interview with McCowan’s Neighbor

Also at 3 p.m. Friday, a neighbor of the McCowans’—whose bedroom faces the McCowan residence—advised that sometime between 1 and 2 a.m. Friday “she awoke to voices outside her residence,” heard through a bedroom window opened approximately eight inches.

She “heard what she thought was a male voice say ‘Amanda, get up, come on, get up, Amanda, get up,’” Sheets stated. (The neighbor) “indicated that she heard this approximately five times.”

The neighbor “then heard what she thought was a female voice say ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’” Sheets stated. The neighbor “looked out of several of her windows and saw no people.”

Cell Phone Records

McCowan’s cell phone records indicate that he placed two calls to Amanda Bach’s cell at approximately 4:36 a.m. Friday, Sheets stated.

Investigators have not yet been able to find Bach’s cell phone and efforts by AT&T to do so were unsuccessful because her cell was “either turned off or out of power.”

But Bach’s cell records indicate that at 12:14 a.m. Friday she appears to have sent “one unknown type media message” to an unknown recipient and that at 1:21 a.m. she received a text from McCowan’s cell.

“There were no further texts or received phone calls after that specific text,” Sheets stated. “All incoming calls appear to have gone to voice mail.”

Interview with McCowan’s Father

At 3 p.m. Friday a detective interviewed McCowan’s father, Joseph McCowan, an officer with the Crown Point Police Department. Joseph McCowan advised that he had been working the midnight shift early Friday morning, as had his wife, and that his son “was alone at home.”

Joseph McCowan also informed the detective that his son was currently in Bloomington and agreed to call him.

In that phone interview, Dustin McCowan repeated what he had first told the responding officer, that Amanda Bach had been visiting from around 11 p.m. Thursday to 1:30 a.m. Friday and added that they had “played PS3 and watched a movie,” Sheets stated.

Dustin McCowan also said that “he didn’t know anything about” the “commotion in the yard” described by his neighbor, Sheets stated.

When asked whether he had been drinking late Thursday or early Friday, Dustin McCowan advised “that he did not drink because he had an upset stomach.”

Later on Friday, at 8:30 p.m., the detective called Joseph McCowan and asked permission to “come and look around” his property. Joseph McCowan was not at home at the time and promised to call the detective when he returned home at 9:30 p.m. He subsequently did so but “advised that he would not allow officers to look around his property at this time,” Sheets stated.

The Flat Tire

Late on Friday, at 11:19 p.m., a PCSP officer determined that the Pontiac’s flat left front tire had a Phillip’s head screw in it, Sheets stated. The screw was silver with a rounded head and appeared “to have no tool markings to indicate use.”

Discovery of the Body

At 3:55 p.m. Saturday, two Valparaiso Police Department detectives found Amanda Bach’s body near the Canadian National railroad right-of-way, after a resident of the area advised that in the past his wife “has seen teenage females” there.

The body was located “on the south side of a four-by-four wire fence in a tree line, south of the railroad tracks,” 294 yards from the McCowan residence, Sheets stated.

A pair of black flip-flops, later identified as belonging to Amanda Bach, was also found on the south side of the railroad tracks between the McCowan residence and the CN right-of-way.

Interview with Juvenile A.B.

At 8:30 p.m. Saturday, a juvenile girl—listed as “A.B.” in Sheets’ affidavit—advised an investigator that she is a friend of Dustin McCowan’s and had gone to visit him at his residence at 4 a.m. Friday.

At 7 a.m. Friday, A.B. was still there when Dustin McCowan’s father arrived home from work in his squad car.

“Dustin got in the car with his father and the two headed north,” Sheets stated. “Heading north on C.R. 625W leads one to both the location where the female body was found as well as Dean’s General Store.”

Interview with WHS Guidance Counselor

On Sunday, an investigator interviewed a guidance counselor at Wheeler Middle School, who advised that, at 7:50 a.m. Friday, Dustin McCowan arrived at WMS “wanting to talk,” Sheets stated.

The counselor’s impression of McCowan’s demeanor: “he seemed concerned but did not seem himself and wanted to know what he should do regarding the fact that Amanda Bach was missing and he was the last one to see her,” Sheets stated.

McCowan then arranged with the counselor to “keep him posted”—by texts—“as to what was going on.”

A day later, at 3:23 p.m. Saturday, McCowan texted the counselor this message, Sheets stated: “Like is the search started and stuff.”

In the ensuing text conversation, the counselor learned that McCowan was in Bloomington and texted him this message: “You on your way back?”

McCowan’s reply: “my dad said that there is a 10-year-old boy missing that they think is connected.”

The counselor’s reply: “Wow, that’s the first I heard of that.”

“The final text messages between (the counselor) and McCowan involved McCowan asking (the counselor) where people were searching for Amanda at,” Sheets stated.

Interview with Bloomington Car-Trip Driver

Also on Sunday, an investigator interviewed the driver who took McCowan and two others to Bloomington on Friday.

The driver advised that, around 1:30 a.m. Friday, McCowan began texting her, indicating that he “wanted to spend the night at her house” and saying that “he would be over as soon as he finished doing his laundry,” Sheets stated.

“At some point later, before McCowan arrived at (her) house, she texted him not to bother coming because now her father was awake,” Sheets stated.

Interview with a Friend of McCowan’s

On Monday another friend of McCowan’s advised that she had had text contact with McCowan on Thursday evening.

“At approximately 11:30 p.m. that evening, she had planned on going to his house,” Sheets stated. “However, Dustin told her that he wasn’t home at that time. This was during the time Dustin admitted to (the initial responding officer) that Amanda Bach was at his house from 11 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.”

The Investigation Today

Sheets does not say in his affidavit whether investigators have recovered a firearm suspected to be connected with Amanda Bach’s death.

Detectives did execute a search warrant at the McCowan residence late Saturday night into early Sunday morning, Sgt. Larry LaFlower of the PCSP told the Chesterton Tribune today.

“Detectives are still pursuing avenues of investigation,” LaFlower added. Anyone who may have pertinent information is urged to call the PCSP Detective Bureau at (219) 477-3140 or the WeTip hotline at (800) 782-7463.

McCowan was scheduled to have an initial hearing late this morning—by video teleconference—before Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper.


Posted 9/20/2011