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Friend testifies McCowan believed murder victim was pregnant

DustMcCowarn 20 is led inhearing Porter County courthouse Valparaiso Wednesay Jan 9 2013. McCowan is scheduled face trial next month

Dustin McCowarn, 20, is led into a hearing at the Porter County courthouse in Valparaiso Wednesay Jan 9, 2013. McCowan is scheduled to face trial next month in the Sept. 2011 murder of his former girlfriend Amanda Bach. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 10, 2013 6:20AM



VALPARAISO — The Union Township man accused of murdering his former girlfriend thought she was pregnant, his best friend testified Thursday.

Brandon A. Hutchins said he had told defendant Dustin McCowan, 20, when Amanda Bach had “spotted” and began her period.

“But Dustin was still saying she was,” Hutchins said.

Even after a negative result came from a pregnancy test Hutchins bought for 19-year-old Bach over Labor Day weekend in 2011, McCowan seemed obsessed.

“I can’t screw up my life. I can’t have a baby,” Hutchins remembered McCowan saying. “He said he’d punch her in the stomach if she was, because she’d ruin his life.”Hutchins described the couple’s on-and-off relationship as filled with fighting since it began in summer 2010. The break came on Aug. 11, 2011, when Bach pretended to sleep at a party and overheard McCowan say that he was just using her and liked another girl more.

Later, when Hutchins returned from school for Labor Day, he and Bach ran into McCowan at a party, and the former couple texted each other.

McCowan verbally told her not to text again because, “You stole my best friend.” He later texted Hutchins, “She’s coming between us, bro.” Hutchins replied “No, she’s not.”

The men have known each other since they were 6 years old.

In the third day of testimony in the court of Porter Superior Judge William Alexa, Hutchins also admitted he and Bach had dated one day after that exchange, about a week before she went to McCowan’s home on Sept. 15, 2011. McCowan didn’t know about the date, Hutchins said.

Under cross-examination, Hutchins admitted he was jealous when Bach told him she was going to McCowan’s for marijuana and to drink, and he was worried she’d get hurt again.

Defense attorney Nick Barnes questioned whether Hutchins remained in downstate Vincennes after that computer video chat with Bach, although Porter County Sheriff’s Police confirmed he was in class on Sept. 16, when Bach’s car was found but a day before her body was discovered.

Hutchins also talked about the calls and texts that went between the two men during the search for Bach.

Although McCowan showed concern, about 12:30 a.m. Sept. 17, McCowan sent a text that said, “Dude ha ha ha.”

McCowan was visiting Indiana University then, and a previous witness said he drank, but not much.

A former McCowan girlfriend, Anna Leahy, testified earlier, before Hutchins, that she hadn’t heard from McCowan for months but got texts from him just before the trip to IU, where she attended school.

She avoided meeting him after finding out Bach was missing because, “I had a really bad feeling about it, and I didn’t want to risk seeing him.”

And in response to a juror’s submitted question, Leahy said McCowan wasn’t physically abusive but “a little bit” verbally abusive.

‘No doubt in my mind’

Earlier in the day, a Union Township man testified he was driving to work about 2:30 a.m. on the morning after Bach was killed when he saw a “Justin Timberlake-looking” man walking south on County Road 650W and minutes later saw Bach’s abandoned care at Dean’s General Store in Wheeler.

The man, Michael Steege, identified the young man he saw as McCowan.

“I’m looking at the individual now,” Steege said. “I’m 100 percent sure. I have no doubt in my mind.”

Steege said he was taking the back roads to work in Lake County that morning when he had to slow his Ford truck to 5 or 10 mph because the man was walking toward him, in the middle of the east side of the road.

“As I was getting closer and closer, he looked straight at me, no expression,” Steege said. “We were eye-to-eye.”

He thought it was odd for a lone young person to be walking that early.

When he returned from his double shift about 7 p.m., Steege called his wife and found out about the search for Bach and mentioned he saw the abandoned car at Dean’s, at County Road 625W, which County Road 650 curves into, and Indiana 130.

He also saw an empty, not-running pickup there, but he said on the stand he looked for someone at the car because the dome light was on and would have used his cell phone if he saw someone.

Steege stopped on the way home to tell the police about the abandoned vehicles, but he didn’t mention the walker on 650W until he saw McCowan’s photo in a newspaper about a week or more later.

Steege said he thought, “Now it makes sense.”

Defense attorney John Vouga questioned Steege on how significant he initially thought the walker was and whether it could have been a similar looking young man from the area.

“This person was so unimportant to you that you didn’t even tell your wife,” Vouga said. “If it was suspicious to you, you would have told someone.”

Vouga also noted that Steege told police the person walking was about his height, 5 feet 6 inches, while McCowan is 6 feet 3 inches.

Also testifying Thursday morning was the man who delivered newspapers to Dean’s.

While Steege remembered Bach’s car at a different angle than police found it, Thomas Cole said the car, when he saw it, was in the position as police found it.

Cole delivered newspapers there about 1:30 a.m. and was seen on surveillance cameras at later delivery stops.



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