McCowan trial focuses on evidence collection
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent February 8, 2013 5:36PM
Updated: March 10, 2013 6:45AM
VALPARAISO — The trial of Dustin McCowan, 20, for murder ended its first week with a half day of testimony that resembled an episode of “CSI.”
Only two witnesses took the stand, Porter County Sheriff’s officers who handled evidence for the Sept. 15, 2011, death of 19-year-old Amanda Bach.
During cross-examination, the defense team questioned the extent of the investigative work the officers did, an apparent attempt to create reasonable doubt for their client.
Sheriff’s Police Patrol Officer Roger Bowles testified about how he investigated Bach’s car and the flat tire on the driver’s side. Whoever drove the car didn’t drive far with a Phillips head wood screw in the tread because there were few marks and no tool marks on the screw.
But when investigators inflated the tire, the air didn’t leak from the screw but from a cut that looked as if the tire ran over something moving backward, Bowles said.
Defense attorney Nick Barnes asked why the car first went to the Bach home instead of being under surveillance before Bowles searched for DNA and fingerprints.
Police didn’t identify the fingerprint they found, and Barnes asked why police didn’t get fingerprints and DNA samples from people McCowan was with and from the man who found Bach’s body.
Barnes also asked why Bowles didn’t bag the pants that were found in the tree by where Amanda lay or the five shirts and bra on her wrists.
Bowles said clothes on the body stay on the body, but attorney John Vouga also wanted to know whether bruises on her knees and legs were from being tied up.
Vouga asked whether police took samples of fly eggs on her body to determine time of death, whether Bach’s father identified the five shirts as hers, why abandoned homes in Wheeler weren’t checked for blood or other evidence.
The body also had bruising on the left side of her head and along her back, so it appeared she had been dragged.
He also asked why McCowan’s hands, fingernails and cellphone, Bach’s car and the McCowan house weren’t checked for gunpowder residue.
Bowles said on some matters, he wasn’t the officer present during that evidence collection and at others, it could have been done.
The trial resumes Monday afternoon and is expected to last three to four weeks.