Prosecutors will not be allowed to enter dog-tracking evidence against the
accused murderer of Amanda Bach, Dustin McCowan, when his trial begins on
On Thursday, Porter Superior Court Judge Alexa granted a motion filed by
McCowan’s attorneys on Aug. 16, seeking the exclusion of that evidence.
Prosecutors had hoped to introduce the results of tracks made on Sept. 21-22
by retired PCSP Sgt. Charlie Douthett’s bloodhound Jury, who Douthett
testified at the hearing in August had alerted to McCowan’s scent at the
site near his home where Bach’s body was found; at Dean’s General Store on
Ind. 130, where Bach’s abandoned vehicle was found; and along Jones Road and
C.R. 650W, the main route between McCowan’s former home on C.R. 625W in
Union Township and Dean’s.
Exactly how useful that evidence would have been—had Alexa allowed
it—is unclear, since under cross-examination by McCowan’s attorney, Nick
Barnes, Douthett acknowledged that under certain circumstances it’s not only
possible for a scent to last in excess of five months but also for a
bloodhound to track a person who’s traveled in a vehicle.
In any event, Alexa did not allow the dog-tracking evidence as proof
of guilt. Citing well-established Indiana case law nearly a century old,
Alexa ruled that “bloodhound evidence is inadmissible because it is an
unreliable form of evidence.”
In that specific case, Ruse vs. State (Ind. 1917), the Indiana
Supreme Court ruled as follows: “When it is considered that the use of
bloodhounds, even under the most favorable conditions, is attended with some
degree of uncertainty, which may readily lead to the conviction or
accusation of innocent persons, and that, at best, evidence as to their
conduct in following a supposed trail is properly not of a great probative
value, it follows . . . that both reason and instinct condemn such evidence,
and courts should be too jealous of the life and liberty of human beings to
permit its reception in a criminal case as proof of guilt.”
A much more recent decision by the Indiana Supreme Court, in 1985, also
upheld the Ruse vs. State ruling, Alexa noted.
McCowan is accused of shooting Bach to death sometime in the morning of
Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. Bach’s body was found in the afternoon of Saturday,
Sept. 17, 2011, some 36 hours after she went missing, in a scrub area south
of the Canadian National right-of-way near McCowan’s home.
McCowan told investigators that Bach had been visiting him and left his home
around 1:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16. Her abandoned vehicle was discovered with
a flat tire at Dean’s around 3:23 a.m.
An autopsy determined that Bach had been killed by a single bullet wound to