Chesterton Tribune


Witnesses testify about voices and gunshots in the night

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Possibly as late as 1:45 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16, Linda Phillips—Dustin McCowan’s neighbor one house to the north—heard a female voice saying “I can’t believe this is happening,” after hearing a male’s voice saying repeatedly “Amanda, get up.”

Possibly as early as 12:22 a.m. on the Friday, Michelle Walbright—McCowan’s neighbor two houses to the south—heard three gunshots.

So Phillips and Walbright testified on Wednesday.

Phillips went first and, under Porter County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Cheryl Polarek’s direct examination, she recalled how after opening her bedroom window around 12:35 a.m. that night she went to bed but was unable to sleep. It was during that time, between 1 and 1:30 a.m., that Phillips started to hear the repeated urgings of a male voice—speaking at least 10 or 15 times—saying “Amanda, get up.”

Phillips did not recognize the voice but she did say that “it was calm.” The man “wasn’t yelling at her,” she said. “It wasn’t a mean voice. It was very gentle.”

Then, finally, Phillips heard the female voice saying “I can’t believe this is happening.” That voice, she said, “sounded a little upset.”

Phillips was unable to see anything or anyone from her bedroom window—although, she said, it sounded as though the voices were “somewhere outside my window”—and at some point went into the kitchen. She was unable to see anything from that window either, although she did see, to her surprise, that the McCowan house to the south was “all lit up,” which Phillips said she had never seen before.

The voices were “clear” and “not muffled” and sounded as though they were “coming from my own yard,” Phillips added.

Under defense attorney Nick Barnes’ cross-examination, Phillips said that she didn’t know who was speaking, whether the persons were young or old, and acknowledged that “sounds travel well at night.”

She also testified that the male voice was not threatening, that it was gentle, and that they did not wake up her dog.

Phillips testified as well that she heard no gunshots, no cars leaving or doors slamming, and saw no headlights panning across her bedroom wall.

Barnes also focused on the time at which Phillips began hearing the voices, the entire duration of which she estimated at 20 minutes.

The voices, Phillips said, started between 1 and 1:30 a.m.

On re-direct examination, Phillips put the latest time at which she heard any voice at 1:45 a.m.

Phillips testified to one other piece of information, which neither the state nor the defense pursued: that at the time in question she saw a vehicle parked at the McCowan home which she thought to be the white squad car driven by McCowan’s father, Elliott McCowan, a Crown Point police officer.


Later in the day on Wednesday, Michelle Walbright—who lives two doors south of the McCowan home—testified that she heard three gunshots sometime after 12 a.m., in the early morning of Friday, Sept. 16, 2011.

Under Polarek’s direct examination, Walbright said that she’d been watching “The Wizards of Waverly Place” with her daughter, when around 12:50 a.m. she heard the first shot. Her daughter was listening to an iPod at the time and Walbright said that she nudged her girl, and that just as her daughter was removing the earbuds, Walbright heard two more shots. Her daughter did not hear the shots, nor did anyone else in the home, Walbright testified.

Is Walbright familiar with the sound of gunshots, Polarek asked.

Walbright said that she is, that she has fired both handguns and shotguns, and that her neighbors occasionally shoot clay pigeons on their property, although never that late.

Did investigators ask her whether she might actually have been hearing a car backfire or firecrackers? Polarek asked.

Walbright said that they did ask her and that what she heard did not sound like either.

Polarek wondered why she didn’t call the police, after hearing gunshots.

“I don’t know,” Walbright asked.

On cross-examination, Barnes asked Walbright whether, in fact, she had originally advised investigators that she heard the shots at 12:22 a.m. or 12:28 a.m. “And you said that you looked at the clock in the kitchen.”

“If that’s what I said,” Walbright replied.

On re-direct, Polarek attempted to put a time on the noises by asking which episode of “The Wizards of Waverly Place” Walbright had been watching when she heard them. The one where Alex wins Wizard of the Year and they have a banquet, Walbright said.

On re-cross Barnes asked Walbright a single question. “Is your memory better now, a year and a half later, or when it took place?”

“When it took place,” Walbright said.



Posted 2/7/2013