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
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
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
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.