More evidence ruled on for upcoming McCowan homicide trial
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent January 9, 2013 4:40PM
Provided mug shot of Dustin McCowan who is being held in the Porter County Jail on suspicion of murder. McCowan was brought back from Bloomington, IN., to face charges in the disapearance and murder of Amanda Bach whose body was found Saturday aftenoon near railroad tracks just south of the town of Wheeler. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 11, 2013 7:29AM
VALPARAISO — It’s still not certain whether the agitated pleas of a man asking someone named “Amanda” to get up will be allowed as evidence in the February trial of Dustin McCowan, 20, for the murder of 19-year-old Amanda Bach.
Porter County Superior Court Judge William Alexa plans to rule on that by the middle of next week.
However, comments Alexa made Wednesday at a hearing on various motions indicated that it could probably be included.
“I’m not sure it’s hearsay at all,” Alexa said.
He added that everything the prosecution does is intended to be prejudicial against the defendant. The question is whether “it’s unfair prejudice,” he said.
A neighbor said she heard outside her window in the early morning hours of Sept. 16, 2011, a young man say, “I just can’t believe this is happening” and “Amanda, honey, you’ve got to get up.”
Defense attorney Nick Barnes argued that the woman who heard that didn’t know who said those words and didn’t know the context, and no one could identify who “Amanda” was.
Bach was at the McCowan home in Wheeler the night of Sept. 15.
The vehicle Bach drove was found abandoned Sept. 16 on Indiana 130 in Wheeler, and her body was found shot through the throat later that week.
Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Frost said what the neighbor heard is relevant to the statements McCowan made to police about time and location. It’s not being used to prove a material issue, so it isn’t an assertion of facts, Frost said.
Alexa did grant that McCowan’s past actions can’t be admitted in trial, including an arrest that didn’t lead to a conviction.
“That doesn’t mean come trial you can’t use it,” Alexa said to the prosecution. “But this will prevent any mention of these during jury selection or openings.”
Barnes said that McCowan telling someone he disliked Bach is a common thing, that people dislike each other. An incident where he took a girl by the arms and shook her because he was upset over a relationship doesn’t show a connection to murder, Barnes said.
Deputy prosecutor Cheryl Polarek said his talk of suicide and guns shows his access to guns, and the fact he said he hated Bach shows motive and intent, and other character matters show he’s a controlling person.
Alexa also denied a motion to exclude photographs of Bach’s autopsy.
Defense attorney John Vouga said the defense would stipulate that the body was Bach’s and that she died from a gunshot wound to the neck and that the photos are prejudicial. Alexa ruled that Vouga should object to any photos during trial.
“The state’s entitled to prosecute the case using whatever evidence it wants,” Alexa said. “The defendant in any case can’t stipulate himself out of the chain of evidence.”
Alexa still hasn’t ruled on whether or not to return property — including guns — to the McCowan family. The items aren’t being used as trial evidence.