Written by Devon Boen
Before June 4, the second day in the Charles Bowen negligent homicide trial, the 12 jurors had never heard Bowen speak. He sat no more than several feet from his 12 peers, but had remained quiet. He gave little in the way of reaction to testimonies or evidence.
On the second day of the trial, the jurors had the opportunity to hear Bowen’s voice on tape.
The first witness called was Montana Department of Criminal Investigations Agent Marvin Dahl who, along with several other agents, has been working on the case since January 2012.
Dahl tracked down video surveillance from the Hardee’s restaurant in Williston from Jan. 11 around 9 p.m. The tape time matched the Hardee’s receipt found at the Doyle crime scene. The tape showed two trucks. One was white and one was dark. At that point, Dahl had no idea who was the driver of either vehicle, but he was days away from discovering a promising lead.
On Jan. 25, five days after Doyle’s frozen body was found, Dahl called Bowen to set up an interview.
In the first interview on Jan. 26, Bowen told Dahl he and Doyle worked for the same company, Versatile Energy, but seldom saw each other because they worked on different crews. He said he had a chance to connect with him in early January 2012.
He said he and Doyle planned to meet one night after the new year for dinner. He alleged they met at the El Rancho in Williston, N.D., and that Doyle was visibly angry when he arrived. He said Doyle was making a scene and the waitstaff no longer wanted to serve them, so they left without eating.
Bowen told Dahl that Doyle didn’t like his supervisor, Jeremy Eynetich. He said Eynetich was looking for Doyle because the two men had work early in the morning. Eynetich was never able to connect with Bowen and Doyle.
Bowen said after they left the El Rancho, Doyle began punching him and pulling his hair. Bowen said Doyle got out of the car near a residential area in Williston, N.D. He said he left him because he was angry with him and positive Doyle would find a ride. He explained Doyle had a history of being volatile and had a reputation for drinking and fighting.
Bowen claimed that after he left Doyle, he went home.
Dahl told the prosecution that he saw Bowen’s white Dodge Dakota truck at his job site and made a connection between it and the truck seen on the Hardee’s surveillance video. Dahl also said he asked Bowen to collect his cell phone records from verizon. Bowen agreed.
The next day, Dahl conducted another interview, but this time, Bowen wasn’t just a source of information, he was a suspect.
He started the interview by reading Bowen his Miranda Rights. Bowen still sounded calm, but began questioning Dahl.
“What’s this all about?” Bowen asked.
Dahl told him he didn’t believe he was totally honest with him the day before.
Bowen was asked to initial a document stating he was willing to speak without an attorney present. Bowen signed the document.
For half of the interview, Bowen maintained his story that he got in an altercation with Doyle and he dropped him off in a residential area of Williston, N.D. But then, Dahl told him about the Hardee’s receipt found at the crime scene. Dahl matched the credit card number on the receipt to one of Bowen’s credit cards.
Up until that information was revealed, Bowen had stayed composed. With a little push on Dahl’s part, Bowen broke down crying. He changed his story, stating he had offered to drive Doyle home to Culbertson and the same altercation he described earlier had taken place along the highway between Culbertson and Bainville. He said Doyle had jumped out of the car as he was slowing down. He said he saw Doyle behind him hunched over, but still standing. He said he drove off but came back past where he thought he had left him, but Doyle was nowhere to be found. Although Dahl had gotten more information, Bowen maintained his innocence regarding Doyle’s death. Dahl asked if Bowen had run him over.
“I did not him my friend,” Bowen said. “Don’t put that on me. It’s not my fault.”
Bowen said he felt terrible because he had left Doyle and something bad happened to him afterward.
“He was my friend,” Bowen said. “I’m not a bad person.”
“I never said you were a bad person, Beau,” Dahl said.
Bowen was arrested following the second interview.
After the tapes played, the prosecution revealed Bowen had gotten his car washed the night before the first interview.
The defense cross-examined and asked Dahl if he had already made up his mind that Charles Bowen was the one responsible for Doyle’s death during the second interview. Dahl used caution in his choice of words, stating Bowen was a person of interest.
Check back for more coverage on the Bowen trial as it unfolds.