Hearing held, details released in Bach death investigation

2011-09-20T12:45:00Z 2012-02-16T20:05:11Z Hearing held, details released in Bach death investigationBy Jeff Burton jeff.burton@nwi.com, (219) 548-4354 nwitimes.com
September 20, 2011 12:45 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Dustin McCowan will spend at least the next five months in Porter County Jail, awaiting trial in the murder of 19-year-old Amanda Bach.

Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, McCowan, 18, appeared before Judge Mary Harper via closed circuit video from the jail Tuesday.

During his initial hearing, Harper advised McCowan of his rights and entered a preliminary not guilty plea on his behalf. Harper told McCowan he and his legal counsel have 20 days to enter a formal plea.

During the hearing, McCowan said only "Yes, ma'am," and "Yes, your honor," when Harper asked if he understood his rights and the charges against him. He also stated that his family has hired an attorney to represent him, though none was on record.

If convicted, McCowan could face up to 65 years in prison, Harper said.

After the hearing, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Matt Frost said that at this time the case does not qualify for the death penalty, but that could change as the investigation progresses.

"It's a horrible, tragic crime," Frost said.

McCowan's next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 1, with a jury trial tentatively set to begin Feb. 1.

In court documents released about an hour before McCowan's hearing, prosecutors and Porter County sheriff's police outlined the events leading to McCowan's arrest.

When contacted by police early Friday after Bach's car was found abandoned outside Dean's General Store on Ind. 130 in Wheeler, McCowan told police the two had been together from 11 p.m. until about 1:30 a.m., when Bach went home.

McCowan told police he asked Bach to text him when she got home, but she never did. He said he tried several times to call her, but according to court documents, his phone records indicated he called her phone just two times, both back to back at 4:36 a.m.

On Friday afternoon, police talked to McCowan's neighbor, who told a detective that between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. Friday she was awakened by voices outside her home.

She told police she heard a male voice say, "Amanda get up, come on, get up, Amanda, get up."

The neighbor told police she then heard what she thought was a female voice say, "I can't believe this is happening."

The neighbor said she looked out her window, but saw no one.

Police would not comment on whether anyone besides McCowan is being investigated.

Court documents also indicate that McCowan on Friday morning visited Mike Rosta, a guidance counselor at Wheeler High School. Rosta told police that McCowan didn't "seem to be himself and wanted to know what he should do regarding the fact that Amanda Bach was missing and and he was the last to see her."

Rosta told police he suggested McCowan go to Bach's family to see how he could help. Rosta later learned through a series of text messages from McCowan that he had gone to Bloomington and was curious as to how the search for Bach was going.

Also Friday afternoon, Porter County police met with McCowan's father, Elliott McCowan, at his home on County Road 625 West in Union Township, just south of where police found Bach's car.

According to court documents, Elliott McCowan told police he was working midnights as a Crown Point police officer and his son was home alone.

An unidentified girl later told police she was with McCowan between 4 and 7 a.m. Friday, when McCowan's father reportedly came home, picked his son up and took him for a short drive.

Police and volunteers launched an extensive search for Bach and just before 4 p.m. Saturday, a Union Township resident and two Valparaiso police detectives found her body 294 yards from McCowan's home on Canadian National Railroad property.

A black flip-flop belonging to Bach was found between McCowan's home and her body.

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