McCowan gets 60 years for murder
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent March 28, 2013 4:08PM
Updated: May 1, 2013 2:12PM
VALPARAISO — Dustin McCowan showed little emotion Thursday as he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the September 2011 murder of his ex-girlfriend, 19-year-old Amanda Bach of Portage.
He also showed little emotion when asking for a public defender for his appeal, which must be filed within 30 days.
However, as he left the courtroom, he joked with a jailer and smiled just as he walked out the door.
McCowan, 20, declined to make a statement to the court, although he had been looking at papers during the proceedings.
“I don’t think the court deserves it, your honor,” he said.
Defense attorney John Vouga said McCowan was trying to be humble.
However, the parents of the victim saw it differently.
“He showed his cowardice,” William Bach Jr. said. “He’s above the law; he’s above everything.”
Bach said that whenever he looked at McCowan while reading a victim’s statement from the witness stand, McCowan looked down.
Vouga said he thought the sentencing was a formality, given the vocal crowds and wide publicity of the case.
However, Vouga was surprised Alexa gave McCowan five fewer years than the maximum sentence.
He also said he will be happy to retry the case after an appeals court requires a new trial with an out-of-county, “unbiased” jury.
In a trial lasting from Feb. 4 to 26, the jury found McCowan guilty of killing Bach the morning of Sept. 16, 2011, after she visited his house.
Murder in Indiana carries a sentence of 45 to 64 years in prison, and McCowan’s sentence includes no probation time, just incarceration.
Alexa disregarded aggravating factors presented by the prosecution, including McCowan’s drinking, saying alcohol was not germane to the case.
However, the law does not limit the aggravators and mitigators the judge can consider.
Although the probation office said the crime was unlikely to happen again, “I don’t think that’s true, if I can say that, based on what we saw of your character in the trial or on what I excluded,” Alexa said.
McCowan showed a lack of remorse when he took a trip to Indiana University to party the weekend after Bach was murdered, the judge said. Other witnesses said they would not have done that after a girlfriend went missing.
Alexa also noted that McCowan would wave a gun at parties he had at his home and said McCowan’s character was reflected “in the way you apparently treated women.”
The prosecution said McCowan was not charged in two incidents with young women, one where he pushed a girl down a flight of stairs when he was mad at her; when she reached out for his hand, he withdrew it.
The other incident involved him grabbing a girl by her shoulders and shaking her.
Early in the hearing, Alexa admonished the audience against making outbursts — under threat of five days in jail for contempt of court — after a McCowan supporter stormed out because Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Polarek said McCowan never had consequences because the adults in his life enabled him.
He specifically warned Bach’s mother, Sandra, against slurring McCowan’s family during her victim’s statement.
Alexa also mentioned that during a phone call at Porter County Jail, someone suggested to McCowan that Polarek and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Matt Frost should lose their child to see what it felt like.
“Dustin said, to his credit, ‘No, that shouldn’t be the case,’ ” Alexa said.
Both prosecutors said later that they didn’t believe their children were in danger, but they would not say who made the statement. They confirmed the statement was not made by McCowan’s father, Elliot McCowan, and Frost said he knew of no pending charges against the father.
Porter County Sheriff’s Police Detective Jeff Biggs said at a Feb. 27 press conference that the elder McCowan was being investigated.