VALPARAISO | A Wheeler man who led police to the missing body of Amanda Bach vehemently denied repeated suggestions by defense attorneys on Wednesday that he, and not Dustin McCowan, is responsible for her death.
During an intense cross-examination, defense attorney Nicholas Barnes questioned how Nicholas Prochno was able to interrupt the search on Sept. 17, 2011, and within just a few minutes, lead police directly to Bach's body 2 1/2 miles away.
Prochno testified he was following a hunch based on information he had heard from his fiancee that young females had been seen in that area along railroad tracks in the past.
Barnes also questioned Prochno on how he knew several of the details in the case as early as he did. Prochno said he had learned some of the information on Facebook and from newspapers.
"Absolutely not," Prochno repeatedly said to suggestions that he was responsible for the murder. "I've never been in contact with Amanda Bach in my entire life."
The testimony came on the third day of the trial accusing 19-year-old Amanda Bach's former boyfriend, McCowan, of shooting her to death on Sept. 16, 2011. Bach's body was found fewer than 300 yards from where 20-year-old McCowan was living at the time.
Valparaiso police Detective Sgt. David Castellanos, who was with Prochno when he found Bach's body, testified he found nothing strange about Prochno or his involvement in the search.
Castellanos said he was the one who pointed out the matted foliage that Prochno followed to Bach's body.
"I don't think Nicholas Prochno led us anywhere," Castellanos said.
Earlier in the day, Michelle Walbright, who lives two houses away from where McCowan was living at the time in Union Township, said she heard three gun shots at 12:20 a.m. Sept. 16, 2011.
Walbright recalled asking her daughter, "Why would somebody be shooting a gun this time of night?"
Walbright said no one else in her house heard the shots.
Another neighbor in the same area, Linda Phillips, told jurors Wednesday she heard a male voice outside her house between 1 and 1:45 a.m. Sept. 16, 2011, repeatedly saying, "Amanda get up."
Phillips said those pleas were followed by a single comment from a female voice saying, "I can't believe this is happening."
She said she saw no one, could not identify the speakers and heard nothing else, but said the man spoke in a calm and gentle voice.
"She sounded a little upset," Phillips said of the female voice.
Phillips said she shared the information with Portage resident William Bach later that morning when he came to her house looking for his missing daughter, Amanda Bach. She said she asked if his daughter was Amanda before he revealed her name.
"He turned pale," Phillips said.
Phillips also said she noticed all the lights on in the nearby McCowan house and Dustin McCowan's father's Crown Point police car parked outside, when he was supposed to be on duty.
Amanda Bach's mother, Sandra Bach, testified McCowan had been verbally abusive to her daughter during their relationship, though she said they both bickered with each other. She said she encouraged her daughter to leave him entirely behind after they broke up in early August 2011.
"He's psycho or bipolar," Sandra Bach said she told her daughter. "You don't need that kind of person in your life."