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Color of flipflop sandals found at murder scene in dispute

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By KEVIN NEVERS

What color are the flip-flops which investigators recovered from the substation property, to the north and east of Dustin McCowan’s home?

Are they black, as Amanda Bach’s mother, Sandra Bach, said, when she testified that those flip-flop sandals found near the substation belong to her daughter?

Or are they gray, as defense attorney Nick Barnes suggested?

The color of the sandals was a theme of the several witnesses’ testimony on Wednesday.

Sandra Bach began, under Porter County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Cheryl Polarek’s direct examination, to recall the events beginning early in the morning of Friday, Sept. 16, when her daughter called her in Mexico—where she had just arrived with her girl friends for a vacation—to say that Amanda’s car had been found abandoned and that Amanda was missing. Bach recalled taking the first flight home, the search on Saturday, Sept. 17, and finally the discovery of Amanda’s body late in the afternoon.

Polarek then showed Bach two photographs, one of the sandal recovered near the substation, the other of Amanda wearing flip-flops. Bach identified the sandal in each of the photos as the same.

In his cross-examination, Barnes asked Bach what color the sandals were which Amanda is wearing in the photograph.

“Black,” Bach said.

What color is the sandal recovered near the substation and later photographed?

“Dirty black,” Bach said.

“Some might say gray,” Barnes suggested.

“No, it’s black,” Bach repeated.

Later in the day, Barnes asked VPD Det. Sgt. David Castellanos—who found one of the flip-flops recovered from the substation property on Saturday, Sept. 16—what color he thought it was: black or gray.

“I don’t know,” Castellanos replied. “It could have been dirty. I didn’t spend much time with it.”

Then, after PCSP Maj. Barry Chayhitz testified that he had found the second flip-flop, near the first one but in heavy vegetation, Monday, Sept. 19, defense attorney John Vouga asked what color Chayhitz thought the sandal to be.

“I believe it was black,” Chayhitz said.

“Were you aware that no strand of Amanda’s DNA was found on that sandal by the FBI?” Vouga asked.

Chayhitz said that he wasn’t aware of that.

The subject of the sandals’ color was broached one last time, late in the day, when Vouga cross-examined PCSP Officer William Hugunin, the evidence technician who photographed both sandals at the scene. When Vouga asked Hugunin whether Hugunin would fight him, if he said that the sandal was gray, Hugunin simply said that he wouldn’t fight anybody over the color.

Sandra Bach

Recalls Dustin McCowan

Earlier in the day, Polarek did ask Sandra Bach what she thought of Dustin McCowan’s relationship with Amanda.

Bach recalled telling her daughter “You need to move on” and said that she thought the words she had used were along the line of “He’s psycho or bipolar, you don’t need that kind of person in your life.”

Bach also testified that, on receiving a text while still in Mexico from McCowan—in which she said that he’s “praying to God” that all was well with Amanda—she had a “mother’s intuition” and “knew something was not right.”

What made you “uneasy” about McCowan’s saying he’s “praying to God”? Polarek asked.

“I didn’t know him in that way,” Bach replied.

On Barnes’ cross-examination, Bach testified that she “wasn’t aware of any physical-type abuse but verbal” and that she was aware that Amanda and McCowan “bickered a lot.”

“Not just Dustin but Amanda too?” Barnes asked.

“Probably,” Bach said.

At Dean’s General Store

Later in the morning, Dean Marquardt, owner of Dean’s General Store on Ind. 130—where Amanda Bach’s abandoned Pontiac was found—recalled the events of that early morning.

Marquardt testified that he first saw the right rear flashing hazard light, drove by the vehicle, saw that it’s driver’s door was opened, parked his own car, and called 911.

Marquardt said that the Pontiac had been parked on the far east side of the property, facing southwest; that he had no operable surveillance cameras in place at the time; that he saw no one; and that he saw no footprints in the “perfect dew” of the vegetation near the Pontiac.

PCSP Officer Jose Mendez also testified about the Pontiac, which he told Barnes on cross-examination that he did touch without gloves and did not photograph because he didn’t think at that time that a crime had occurred.

Mendez was also the first officer to make contact with McCowan, by cell phone, and Mendez recalled McCowan’s repeating “I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m scared.”

“It didn’t sit right,” Mendez testified. “An over-exaggerated tone.”

On cross-examination by Vouga, Mendez did say that he made no mention of McCowan’s tone in his original report and only first mentioned it in his deposition in January 2013.

Vouga also asked Mendez whether William Bach, Amanda’s father, was “over-exaggerated” in his expressions of concern, and whether all those who would later search for her were “over-exaggerated” in their expressions of concern.

Mendez said that they were not.

On re-direct examination, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Frost asked Mendez whether Mendez’s point was basically this: that McCowan’s “tone did not match the words.”

Mendez said that that was his point.

 

Posted 2/7/2013