wide-ranging cross-examination on Friday of a PCSP crime scene technician,
Dustin McCowan’s defense probed the tech’s impressions and observations
during his involvement in the investigation.
things, Officer Roger Bowles was unable to agree with defense attorney Nick
Barnes that what Barnes called a “thin line of bruising” around Amanda
Bach’s knees necessarily was or looked like a ligature mark.
testified that, 48 hours after Bach went missing, he saw no evidence of a
cleanup at the McCowan residence but did see alcoholic beverage containers
in McCowan’s bedroom.
Much of the
cross-examination Barnes devoted to higher-paygrade issues, namely, which
sites or items Bowles was instructed to process or collect during the
investigation and which ones he wasn’t.
Bowles took the
stand under Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Frost’s direct
examination and spoke chiefly about his processing of Bach’s gold 2006
Pontiac G6 and of its flat driver’s side front tire.
Bowles first got
to the Pontiac at 11:23 Friday, Sept. 16, by which time it had been towed to
the PCSP’s secure evidence garage. On this occasion Bowles was told only to
search the car for Bach’s cell phone, which he did not find.
Then, on the
morning of Saturday, Sept. 17, Bowles was instructed to process the Pontiac
again “in a more thorough fashion.” Bowles described how he photographed the
car, dusted parts of it for fingerprints, and then took multiple
measurements of the position of the driver’s seat, which he testified—when
found—was nearly but not quite all the way pushed back.
Sept. 22, Bowles processed the flat tire. Although he found a Phillip’s head
screw embedded in it—at a slight angle near the tread line—the deflation
itself Bowles attributed to a “cut,” around three-quarters of an inch in
width, on the tire’s sidewall. Under 90 pounds of continuous air pressure,
he was only able to re-inflate the tire to 34 pounds of pressure.
that he reached three conclusions about the tire: first, that it had been
driven “a very minimal distance while deflated”; second, that air escaped
through the cut in the opposite direction of the tire’s forward rotation;
and third, that he never observed an air leak through the Phillip’s head
Later in the
day, jurors submitted to Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa a number of
their own questions for Bowles.
*Could a piece
of scrap steel have sliced the sidewall and caused it to leak? “Sure,”
*Could a person
drive a vehicle off C.R. 625W and eastbound along the Canadian National
right-of-way to the point at which Bach’s body was found south of the
tracks? “Not in a regular vehicle,” Bowles said.
*Did you secure
a fingerprint from the driver’s seat adjustment lever in Bach’s Pontiac?
Bowles said that he did not print the lever at all but rather took DNA swabs
from it, since the lever was very small and dusting it for prints would have
made it impossible to swab for DNA.
his cross-examination of Bowles by directing his attention to the Phillip’s
head screw. It “seems pretty beaten up,” Barnes suggested.
in turn that he saw no great wear on it and that the screw may not have been
driven on for any great distance. He also testified, when queried by Barnes,
that he saw no indication that it had actually been screwed into the tire.
What shape is
that cut in the sidewall, Barnes asked next. “Like a lightning bolt?”
that it looks, when the tire is deflated, something like a lightning bolt
but added that, under full inflation, the cut tends to straighten.
Do you know of
any knife shapes like lightning bolts? Barnes asked.
Did you find any
lightning-bolt shaped knives in the McCowan residence? Barnes asked.
Bowles said that
abruptly shifted gears, turning first to the site where Bach’s body was
found and then to her autopsy.
How tall was the
wire fence on whose far side Bach had been left? Barnes asked
Three to four
feet in height, Bowles estimated.
So Bach’s body
was probably thrown or dropped over the fence? Barnes asked.
It would depend
on which direction the person who brought her there had taken, Bowles
But if taken
from the Canadian National right-of-way? Barnes pressed.
Then yes, she
was probably thrown or dropped over the fence, Bowles said.
hands have been bagged prior to her removal from the site where her body was
found? Barnes asked.
“I’m not sure we
didn’t,” Bowles said.
If PCSP Det.
Com. Jeff Biggs had told you not to bag them, “that would be odd?” Barnes
“That would be
odd,” Bowles testified.
Should the site
where Bach’s body was found have been secured until the completion of the
autopsy, on Monday, Sept. 19? Barnes asked
“Once I left the
scene I don’t know what happened there,” Bowles replied.
But if it hadn’t
been secured, should it have been? Barnes asked again.
necessarily,” Bowles stated.
Is it true that
“you didn’t know the cause of death at that point?” Barnes asked.
Either a gunshot
or knife wound, Bowles replied.
So far as anyone
knew on Saturday, Sept. 17, the wound to Bach’s throat could have been a
puncture? Barnes continued.
It could have
been, Bowles said.
asked Bowles—who attended Bach’s autopsy, accompanied by PCSP Det. Sgt.
William Young—whether the forensic pathologist ever determined the time of
“He didn’t tell
me,” Bowles said.
There were fly
eggs in Bach’s hair, Barnes said. Why weren’t they collected at the autopsy?
Bowles said that
he would feel more comfortable if Barnes asked Det. Young that question.
Barnes did ask
Bowles whether he had noticed the “apparent ligature marks on (Bach’s)
knees,” the “thin bruising around each of her legs.”
recall noticing the marks but would not hazard an opinion on what caused
them. “I’m not sure they were made by a ligature.”
asked Bowles to recall the early morning hours of Sunday, Sept. 18, when he
was instructed to process the McCowan residence. Queried by Barnes, Bowles
testified to the following:
*Bowles saw no
sign of “cleanup” in the house but did see the normal range of detergents
and other products in the laundry room.
never told to search drains or traps for blood or other evidence.
“alcohol bottles, may some cans,” in Dustin McCowan’s bedroom.
”You don’t think
the inside of the residence was a crime scene, do you?” Barnes put it flatly
“I wouldn’t know
for sure,” Bowles replied.
said, when asked by Barnes, that he was instructed to process the squad car
used by Dustin McCowan’s father, Elliott McCowan, but found nothing of
evidentiary value in or on it. Bowles did remark in his original report that
the squad car appeared to have been “freshly cleaned” but, after Barnes had
showed him a photograph taken of the vehicle at the time, Bowles testified
that he did see what “look like handprints in dust” on the squad car’s
asked Bowles whether he was ever told to conduct any gunshot residue testing
at all; to collect DNA samples from any persons other than Dustin McCowan;
to determine whether any persons involved in the investigation owned or had
access to firearms; or to collect soil samples from the site where Bach’s
body was found. All of those questions Bowles answered in the negative.
The Orange Shirt
Friday, PCSP Officer Darrell Hobgood discussed his collection, on Monday,
Sept. 19, of the orange long-sleeved shirt—not a hoody, as defense attorney
John Vouga described it in his opening statement—found west of the C.R. 625W
grade-crossing and south of the Canadian National right-of-way.
examination by Frost, Hobgood testified that the shirt was recovered 342
feet west of the grade-crossing and 26 feet south of the tracks, that it was
first seen “surrounded by tall grass and weeds,” and that by walking
southbound from the shirt and up an embankment a person would reach a spot
from which the McCowen residence is visible.
Vouga, in his
cross examination, asked Hobgood the following: whether he was aware that
Bach’s blood and DNA had been found on the shirt but that McCowan has been
excluded as a contributor of “anything” on it; that dog hair had also been
found on the shirt; and that there had been a vigil in the area on Sunday,
Sept. 18, the previous day.
that he was aware of none of those things. “I was never told anything
official about that shirt,” he said.
Given the number
of people searching for Bach on Saturday, Sept. 17, “don’t you find it odd”
that the shirt was actually located on Monday, Sept. 19? Vouga asked
“I don’t know
how many people were searching or where,” Hobgood replied.