A certified crime scene investigator with the Porter County Sheriff’s Police
gave testimony Monday that the investigation into the murder of Amanda Bach
has not linked DNA, or any trace evidence, to defendant Dustin McCowan of
Det. Lt. William Young also said that police have not considered anyone else
to be a suspect in the case, nor has the murder weapon ever been found.
Young, who has been with the PCSP for 17 years, was the only witness called
at the start of the trial’s second week. In direct examination, Chief
Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Frost asked Young to talk about several
photographs taken of Bach’s body as it was found on Saturday, Sept. 17,
2011, in tall weeds near a wire fence line along the Canadian National
Railroad right-of-way in proximity to C.R. 625W and 350N.
Young said he arrived shortly after the body was found at 3:49 p.m. to
assist PCSP Det. Com. Jeff Biggs and crime scene technician Officer Roger
Bowles by placing and sealing pieces of evidence in brown paper bags.
Photographs depicted Bach’s body, nearly naked, with her right side wedged
up against a tree. Several shirts and her bra were around her arms. Another
photograph of Bach’s head showed blood around her face with clusters of fly
eggs in her hair and near her left nostril.
Young testified he was present for the three to four hour autopsy
examination in Indianapolis. The body was transferred from the Porter
Hospital Valparaiso Campus morgue because the local pathologist was
unavailable, he said.
Swabs were taken for DNA evidence around Bach’s breasts, mouth, thighs,
knees, vaginal area, and fingernails. A “mushroomed” bullet was also
recovered in the left back side of Bach’s neck, Young said.
Autopsy photos show more fly eggs described by Young as a having a “parmesan
cheese” texture in Bach’s hair on the left side and under her left ear
indicating she had been dragged along the ground.
“Did you collect the fly eggs at the autopsy?” Frost asked.
Young said he did not under the advice of a forensic etymologist.
As for the bullet, the tip peeled back against the stem on impact causing
the mushroom-like appearance, Young said. The state next presented
photographs of the Federal .38 Special bullet cartridges that were recovered
from Elliot McCowan, the defendant’s father.
The bullet that killed Amanda Bach could have come from at least ten
different guns, Young said.
Young said the autopsy showed Bach was wearing five kinds of shirts or tops
at the time of her death – a maroon tank top, a pink camisole, a white
polka-dot tank, another white tank, and a black-and-gray long sleeve shirt –
many of which Young pointed out had holes and stains on them as her body had
The bullets and shirts were sent to the FBI for further analysis, Young
The orange shirt
As Young examined Bach’s clothing items that were added into the record,
Frost had Young look at the “orange long-sleeved shirt” that was found west
of the C.R. 625W grade-crossing two days after the body was found.
“Have you seen any other shirts like that?” said Frost.
“Yes,” replied Young, who said he had seen a seen another orange shirt that
was in McCowan’s possession when he was booked into Porter County Jail and
noted similarities in the stitching and thickness.
Later in cross-examination, Young would say that Bach’s DNA was found on the
shirt discovered by the railroad tracks. He also said that the shirt McCowan
was wearing at PCJ processed by the FBI would reveal it had none of Bach’s
Frost asked Young if he could identify the address of an “abandoned”
ranch-style house west of C.R. 625W which was documented in photographs.
Photos were taken through the window showing a large blue mattress propped
against a wall inside.
Young said he knew the house and the address 633 West C.R. 350 North.
Defense attorney Nick Barnes objected, saying the photos had no relevance,
but Frost assured Porter County Superior Court Judge William Alexa that
“relevance will come at a later witness” and the pictures were admitted.
On its cross-examination, the defense began by asking Young about how
thoroughly the PCSCP investigated the body.
First Barnes asked Young if he thought it was possible Bach’s body could
have been dragged through the cornfields rather than along the railroad.
Young said that police did not probe that possibility because the fields
showed no obvious signs of stress.
Barnes questioned how much was collected at the autopsy, digging deeper on
why the fly eggs weren’t used to determine how long the body had been lying
in the weeds. “Wouldn’t that be good to know?” Barnes asked.
Young said that the autopsy could not determine an exact time of death.
Also, “there was a bluish substance located on her leg. Did you ever collect
Young replied in the negative to that, as well as to similar questions
Barnes posed regarding a “bluish-purplish looking substance” around the
navel areas and the knee areas.
Young said he did notice bruises around Bach’s knees and redness around her
ankles but was not sure if they were ligature marks.
Then Barnes brought up the subject of Bach’s gold 2006 Pontiac G6 and asked
if Young was instructed to take swabs from the vehicle to check for DNA,
specifically the steering wheel, emergency flashers, the lever to adjust the
driver’s seat, or a “stain” in the back seat. Young said no, but mentioned
that Bowles dusted for fingerprints around the rearview mirror, the driver’s
interior window, the front fender and the hood area. Ultimately, an analysis
showed that McCowan’s fingerprints were not found on Bach’s car, Young said.
The car’s floor mats were sent to the FBI for analysis to determine if they
contained any blood, Young said, which came back negative. Young said he
showed the results to Det. Com. Biggs who then asked him to “destroy” the
Barnes asked why the police felt destroying the mats was the “best option in
a major murder case,” especially if someone from the defense wanted to
perform their own independent review to search for another suspect.
“The items did not have anything involved in this case,” said Young.
Questions then shifted to the investigation of the McCowan residence. Young
said he was tasked with checking the yard, driveway, and outdoor buildings.
No blood was found there, he said, nor in the house although it had been
initially suspected that some drops were on the stairway leading into a
kitchen/living room area.
Young said that he did not find any evidence of “cleanup” other than a
normal range of detergents in the laundry room.
Swabs from Bach’s finger nails were taken to determine if Bach had struggled
with or fought her killer, leaving traces of his or her DNA, Young said.
Barnes asked Young if he had noticed scratches on McCowan when he was booked
into the PCJ. Young said he saw “minor scratches” on McCowan’s torso but
could not identify their exact location in pictures handed to him by Barnes
saying the photos were “too small” to make out any details.
However, he could see scratches on photographs the state provided but felt
they were of “no major significance.”
The fingernail swabs subsequently showed no trace of McCowan’s DNA, Young
Barnes asked if police had done any tests for gunshot residue. Young said
they did not, given the time frame. “You would need to do that as soon as
possible,” Young said.
asked about the results of the tests on dog hairs found on Bach’s body that
were sent to the FBI. Results released in June revealed that the hairs were
“dissimilar” to McCowan’s dog.
Young if police afterwards tried to collect dog hair from neighbors.
Was there any
DNA, hair, dog hair, clothing fiber, or fingerprint evidence found by police
that would link McCowan to the case? Barnes asked.
said, other than the exception that McCowan’s DNA was found on his cell
Barnes, who also
mentioned that one police report stated Bach’s body contained a trace of DNA
from an “unknown female” under her left breast, asked why police hadn’t
questioned anyone else, even for exclusivity purposes.
He said some
people were interviewed but they all had alibis. “There was nobody that this
case pointed to other than Dustin McCowan,” Young said.
Young also said
that some of the results DNA reports were “inconclusive” meaning McCowan
still may be a “major contributor.”
A question from
a juror asked Young if Bach’s body had been thrown over the fence. Young
said it didn’t appear to have been but rather it seemed as if the placement
of the body had been “staged.”