Judge tosses dog evidence in Union Twp. murder trial
December 13, 2012 - 7:19 pm
VALPARAISO - A judge has ruled bloodhound evidence will not be introduced during the February murder trial involving Union Township resident Dustin McCowan.
McCowan, 20, is accused in the slaying of his former girlfriend, Amanda Bach. Bach, 19, was found shot to death Sept. 17, 2011 about 300 yards from McCowan's house.
Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa said the state Supreme Court ruled in 1917 that bloodhound evidence is inadmissible.
The court analyzed and quoted numerous cases from other states, the majority of which "recognize the fact that such evidence is of a very dangerous character, and that, when received, it is to be with caution, " according to Alexa's ruling.
"While the court agreed that bloodhound dogs are 'carefully trained,' the court ... stated that all dogs 'are not equally unerring, and each may fail at times in being truthful,'" Alexa said.
Alexa also cited a 1985 state Supreme Court case upholding those earlier findings.
Portage-based defense attorney John Vouga said Thursday he believes the judge ruled correctly considering the state's history on the issue of bloodhound evidence.
Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Polarek said she believes the bloodhound evidence in this case is strong, but was not surprised by the ruling.
"We understood it could go either way," she said.
The dog in this case had tracked trails from where Bach's body was found to both her car and to McCowan's nearby house.
Polarek said she still has a solid case against McCowan, who is being held without bond at the Porter County Jail until his Feb. 4 trial.
During a bond hearing in November 2011, police unveiled several key pieces of evidence in addition to the bloodhound information, including tracing McCowan's cellphone to the sites where Bach's body and her vehicle were found.
There also is a witness, who identified McCowan as the "Justin Timberlake-looking kid" he saw walking in the area that September day.
Other revelations that surfaced included McCowan's father, Crown Point police Officer Joseph Elliott McCowan, telling investigators a .38-caliber revolver was missing from his home.
Along with that, ammunition for a .38-caliber gun appears to match the bullet taken from Bach's body.
A detective said at the time that of the 90 pieces of evidence collected and up to 150 people interviewed, nothing pointed to anyone but McCowan as being responsible.