The Indiana Court
of Appeals has affirmed the murder conviction of Dustin McCowan who was
found guilty in the September 2011 shooting death of his ex-girlfriend,
Portage resident Amanda Bach.
his conviction and sentence alleging four errors in the ruling of Porter
County Superior Court Judge William Alexa.
The first two were
related to McCowan’s cell phone records. McCowan alleged that the cell phone
location evidence indicating McCowan’s whereabouts the night of the murder
presented by Porter County Sheriff’s Detective Gene Hopkins was admitted in
error, and that his constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable
search and seizure were violated when the Porter County Sheriff’s Department
secured this information from his cell phone carrier.
In it’s decision,
the Appeals Court ruled that cell phone location evidence was properly
admitted and legally obtained from the carrier based upon the emergency
nature of Amanda Bach’s disappearance which suggested foul play.
The appellate court
also heard McCowan’s complaint that the trial court erred in refusing to
give his jury instruction regarding presumption of innocence, but the court
decided that it appears the trial court’s instructions were given adequately
alleged that the trial court erred in refusing a jury instruction regarding
reasonable doubt and that Judge Alexa should have recused himself prior to
sentencing based upon his learning of a post-trial phone call where an
acquaintance of McCowan discussed the appropriateness of harm to the
children of prosecutors and the lead investigator.
The Appellate Court
found no error in refusing the jury instruction and no error in Judge Alexa
refusing to recuse himself for the purposes of sentencing.
Prosecuting Attorney Brian Gensel said in a press release sent to the
Chesterton Tribune that he was pleased with the ruling.
“During the appeal
process, I was confident that the conviction would be affirmed due to the
thorough and comprehensive investigation by the Sheriff’s Department, led by
Captain Jeff Biggs and the skillful presentation of the case by Chief Deputy
Matt Frost and Deputy Cheryl Polarek,” Gensel said.
In March 2013,
Alexa sentenced McCowan to 60 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections
following a three-week trial where a jury delivered a guilty verdict for the
murder conviction. McCowan is serving his sentence at the Correctional
Facility in Pendleton.