McCowan trial getting national attention as it nears end
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent February 23, 2013 10:38AM
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: March 25, 2013 6:45AM
VALPARAISO — On Tuesday, jurors will hear four hours of closing arguments, then decide the fate of a Union Township man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend.
The trial of Dustin McCowan, now 20, for the September 2011 murder of Amanda Bach is unusual for Porter County. In at least the last 25 years, the county never had a trial go into a third week, Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel said.
Because of the trial’s length, Porter Superior Judge William Alexa had four alternate jurors chosen and allowed for two-hour closings.
The trial has also gotten national attention. On Feb. 21, the last day of testimony, a producer for the CBS show “48 Hours” attended.
The investigation also had interesting twists since police identified 19-year-old Bach as a missing person on Sept. 16, 2011, after Dean Marquart discovered her abandoned car at his Wheeler store about 3:25 a.m.
The keys were in the ignition, the door was open and dome was light on, and when her father arrived from Portage, he noticed the seat was pushed too far back for his 5-feet, 2-inch, 100-pound daughter.
Although Bach’s purse was in the car, her treasured cell phone wasn’t, and calls went straight to voice mail.
Police found no DNA, including hers, in the car.
Investigators never found the murder weapon or identified a murder scene.
McCowan, more than 6 feet tall, may have been the last to see Bach. He told police Bach visited from 11 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Sept. 15, 2011.
Witnesses testified Bach was good about keeping her 1 a.m. curfew or texting family if she was late.
Defense witness Shelby Reilly testified that McCowan texted her that he wasn’t home for her to visit about 11:19 p.m., then texted at 12:34 a.m. for her to come over, which she didn’t.
McCowan participated in the first searches for Bach, texting, calling and posting on Facebook, but he left for a planned trip to Bloomington that afternoon.
After police found her body off the Canadian National tracks about 255 yards from the McCowan home, Bloomington and Indiana University police took McCowan into custody.
Dr. John E. Cavanaugh, the forensic pathologist who performed the Bach autopsy in Indianapolis, testified Bach showed no signs of sexual abuse or of being tied up.
In February 2012, McCowan’s father, Elliot McCowan, a Crown Point Police patrolman, announced that someone had offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of Bach’s real murderer. During the trial, Elliot McCowan said his mother put up the money.
In April 2012, Elliot McCowan hired attorneys John Vouga, a former Porter County prosecutor, and Nick Barnes, a former Lake County prosecutor, to replace Bob Harper, who was hired when searches began for Bach.
On June 1, 2012, a family bought the McCowan house and said they received unwanted attention from Bach’s mourners, specially during vigils for her.
During trial, Vouga and Barnes raised the possibility of other suspects, to try to raise reasonable doubt among jurors. Those included the man who found the body and told police to check in that area, and McCowan’s best friend, Brandon Hutchins, who was dating Bach but was at school in Vincennes and attended classes Sept. 16.