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Friend of McCowan testifies at Amanda Bach murder trial

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The lifelong friend of Dustin McCowan took the witness stand at his trial Thursday afternoon.

Brandon Hutchins graduated from Wheeler High School with McCowan in 2011 and testified that they’ve been best friends since they were 6.

“He’s like my brother,” Hutchins said under Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Cheryl Polarek’s direct examination.

But, Hutchins testified, after graduation their friendship began to veer after making plans to attend college together. Hutchins was accepted at Vincennes University while McCowan was unable to secure student loans.

When asked by Polarek how McCowan felt about that, Hutchins said his friend was “pretty upset,” not knowing “what he was supposed to do next” after graduation.

Polarek next asked Hutchins if his going to school played a role in the argument which McCowan was reported to have had with his on-and-off girlfriend Amanda Bach during a going-away party in late July.

Hutchins said that his going to school played no role in the argument and added that the couple “argued a lot, always saying they were mad at each other,” since they began dating in the summer of 2010.

“When did they break-up?” Polarek asked.

At a friend’s party in mid-August 2011, Hutchins replied. He said Bach was in one room pretending to be asleep and heard McCowan from another room talking about another girl he liked. She grabbed her purse, told McCowan to leave her alone, and left, Hutchins.

During the summer, Hutchins said that Bach and he—Hutchins—became closer friends and saw each other “every day, pretty much” without McCowan’s knowing.

That Labor Day weekend, Hutchins came home from school and attended a bonfire with Bach that McCowan was also at. Bach began texting McCowan who told her verbally, “Don’t ever text me again,” because she had stolen his best friend.

Hutchins said that McCowan texted him that night “She’s coming between us, bro,” to which Hutchins said that he texted back “No, she’s not.”

Pregnancy scare

“I believe there was an issue about a pregnancy,” Polarek continued.

“(McCowan) thought she was,” Hutchins said, because he believed Bach did not get her period. She did get it later, Hutchins said, but when he told McCowan “she can’t be pregnant” he didn’t believe him.

Hutchins said the possible pregnancy made McCowan anxious and told him “this is going to screw up my life, I can’t have a baby,” and that he would “punch (Bach) in the stomach” if she were pregnant.

Hutchins said he personally bought a home pregnancy test for Bach over Labor Day weekend and that she used it at his house that Saturday night.

“And what was the result?” Polarek said.

“It was negative.” said Hutchins.

Later, under cross-examination by defense attorney Nick Barnes, Hutchins said that McCowan did drop the subject of pregnancy after being told that Bach was not pregnant.

“He didn’t bring it up again, did he?” asked Barnes.

“No,” Hutchins said.

Amanda goes missing

In direct examination, Hutchins said that he and Bach agreed to start dating a week or so before she went missing and that McCowan did know about it. Hutchins and Bach were Skyping early on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011, while he was away at school and she was at home, Hutchins said.

Bach told Hutchins that she was going over to McCowan’s to drink and hang out and Hutchins said that he objected to her plan, saying that he “didn’t want to see her go over there” because he thought McCowan might hurt her.

Hutchins said that even though they fought, McCowan “liked Amanda a lot.”

“I didn’t want him to know the fact I was stealing his girlfriend,” he said.

Hutchins last talked to Bach at 10:40 p.m. on her cell and that she told him she was going to McCowan’s house when his dad left.

On Sept. 16, about 5:30 a.m., Hutchins saw “a bunch of missed calls” on his cell from McCowan asking Hutchins to call him, Hutchins testified. When Hutchins contacted McCowan— who at that time was at Hutchins’ home—McCowan with “genuine concern” told him that Bach had gone missing after leaving his house at 1:30 a.m. and that police had found her car abandoned. The two agreed to “call some people.”

Hutchins said he spent that Friday night in his dorm with friends. He said his reason for not going home was because his car was in the shop and he did not have a ride. But he “wanted to be there for the search parties.”

On Saturday afternoon, Hutchins heard from his sister that Bach’s body had been found dead, prompting him to immediately call McCowan while he was at I.U. Hutchins recalled telling McCowan “Hey, bro, they found her… She’s dead.”

McCowan began crying, Hutchins testified, and ended the call saying “he had to go.”

Hutchins said he texted McCowan sometime before 7 p.m. on Saturday “… you can tell me anything. I’m here for you, bro.” The text was not returned.

“Why did you say that to him?” Polarek inquired.

“If he did have any involvement, I wanted him to tell me.”

Cross-examination

Barnes began his cross-examination by asking Hutchins if he was angry or jealous that Bach went to McCowan’s house on the evening of Sept. 16. Hutchins said that he was not angry but admitted jealousy.

Barnes asked if it was true that McCowan, before he dated Bach, had encouraged a relationship between her and Hutchins. Hutchins said that it was true but he did not pursue one because he knew McCowan liked her.

Barnes was also curious about Hutchins’ location on Sept. 16, saying that his phone calls were “going through a switch up here” instead of at or around Vincennes. And Barnes asked for proof that Hutchins’ car was being worked on.

The Porter County Sheriff’s Police is said to have confirmed that Hutchins was in class that day. The sensor in his vehicle was dying out, he said, and he said he took it to the “school’s auto shop,” but had nothing to prove it.

Barnes asked if the police ever took a sample of his DNA, to which Hutchins said “No.” Police, however, did search Hutchin’s room at school while he was not there and interviewed his roommates.

Hutchins testified that, in the past, he had been close to the area where Bach’s body was found near the Canadian National railroad because that is where he would help McCowan dump trash after parties.

Barnes also asked about text messages which Hutchins sent to McCowan, including ones about giving information to the police and another saying Bach’s father had his daughter’s cell phone when it was missing with her.

He also wanted to hear more about why Hutchins didn’t try harder to find a ride home on Friday.

“You didn’t ask anyone?”

“My mom said she thought it would be a waste of gas,”

Based on the previous questions, Barnes asked if Hutchins felt he was “insinuating that he [Hutchins] killed Amanda Bach.” Hutchins said he felt that way.

Re-direct

Polarek then asked Hutchins to answer three questions before he was excused.

“Did you hurt Amanda Bach?

“No.”

“Did you kidnap Amanda Bach?

“No.”

“Did you kill Amanda Bach?

“No.

 

Posted 2/8/2013