Amanda Bach’s father is first to take stand in Dustin McCowan’s murder trial
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent February 5, 2013 5:17PM
William Bach identifies his daughter’s purse for the court Tuesday, February 6, 2013, on the opening day of testimony in the murder trial of Dustin McCowan, 20, of Union Township. | L.D. Chukman ~ for Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 7, 2013 6:39AM
VALPARAISO — The September 2011 morning before she was killed, 19-year-old Amanda Bach received a “yo” text from her ex-boyfriend, who is now on trial for her murder.
On the witness stand Tuesday, Bach’s father, William J. Bach Jr., told how he learned about it as they drove to lunch while spending a dad-daughter day together.
Amanda texted Dustin McCowan, now 20, back with “hey,” her father said.
They had broken up in July, he said, after she had realized McCowan was going nowhere and she was considering dating another guy.
“I told her, ‘Amanda, you just really need to move on,’ ” Bach said.
Around 10 p.m. that Sept. 15 night, she told her father she was going to meet her cousin and cousin’s boyfriend at Stardust II on U.S. 30 in Hobart to bowl.
Instead, she went to McCowan’s house in Union Township, and early on Sept. 16, the Porter County Sheriff’s Police called Bach to come get his daughter’s car, found abandoned at Dean’s General Store at the corner of Jones Road and Indiana 130 in Wheeler.
He stated the first thing he noticed on the car — with its hazard lights flashing and a door open — was the seat was too far back for petite Amanda to drive it.
After having the car towed back to his Portage home, Bach spent most of the day looking for his daughter, at one point talking to McCowan and his father, Crown Point police officer Elliot McCowan.
Bach testified that McCowan first asked if they checked the car for fingerprints. Bach said the elder McCowan came out and seemed cocky, asking if the car was being processed.
Dustin McCowan didn’t make eye contact, and that’s when Bach said he began to suspect the worst.
“I really didn’t think that something like this could happen. I didn’t want to believe it. She was more responsible than to be in a situation like this — not until I saw him shaking after I talked to him,” Bach said.
The father was the first witness to take the stand in the trial that began with testimony Tuesday afternoon.
‘Sole focus’ of police
The courtroom was packed with family and friends of both Amanda Bach and Dustin McCowan, and the prosecution’s opening statement included photos of Bach during the autopsy and as she was found in the underbrush around the Canadian National railroad tracks.
“She lies hidden, she lies discarded and she is dead,” found about 300 yards from the McCowan home, near County Road 625W, Porter County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Matt Frost said.
The autopsy photos showed her with a red wound in the throat, about an inch under her chin and surrounded by soot, plus black and red specks from unburned gunpowder.
Both indicate Bach was shot at close range, he said.
A photo of her back showed it was rubbed raw with “perimortem wounds,” signs that shortly after death, “she was drug like a backwards wheelbarrow” to where police found her, Frost said.
Frost said the jury will hear from an FBI expert that a tire on Amanda’s car was slashed. He said testimony would include one neighbor hearing outside her window about 1:30 a.m. a male saying “Amanda, get up,” and a female saying “I can’t believe this is happening to me.” Another neighbor heard shots.
McCowan also allegedly said, “This is going to ruin my time at IU, and I’m going to party in her honor” while she was still presumed missing, Frost said.
Defense attorney John Vouga said in his opening statement that McCowan’s story “has never changed, ever” and that “Dustin remained their sole focus despite their inability to link him to this murder through DNA evidence, hair evidence, fiber evidence or fingerprint evidence.”
No other suspects were fingerprinted or had DNA taken, even for exclusion, Vouga said.
Although female DNA was found on Bach, no females had DNA samples taken, and an orange hooded sweatshirt found near the scene had her blood on it but no DNA from McCowan.
“I’m going to ask you to rely on evidence that cannot lie — the science,” Vouga said. “It will tell you that Dustin McCowan did not murder Amanda Bach, and if you look closely, it might just tell you who did.”
Vouga also said the state hasn’t found where the murder scene was, just where the body was located, and that the investigation didn’t identify the McCowan home as the scene.