Written by Devon Boen
Editor's Note: Charles Bowen has been found guilty. This story and others posted after it offer in-depth coverage of the trial leading up to his conviction on June 6.
The first two days of the Charles Bowen negligent homicide trial were largely comprised of opening statements and law enforcement testimonies. The end of the trial introduced multiple medical and scientific experts as well as autopsy photos and results.
Len Knutson, an agent for the Montana Department of Criminal Investigation, was called to the stand at the end of day 2. He was the lead investigator on the case.
Knutson testified he was involved in the collection of evidence as well as the search of Bowen’s vehicle in the beginning of the case. He told the prosecution an oily substance was found on Doyle’s body.
Doyle’s clothes, the substance on his body, and multiple other items at the crime scene were sent away for trace evidence testing. Hairs, fibers, and other elements of potential trace evidence removed from the interior and exterior of Bowen’s vehicle were sent in for trace evidence testing. According to the results, no trace evidence on Doyle’s clothing nor the oily texture on his body, could be linked to any trace elements in or outside of Bowen’s car.
Some of the hairs found in the car tested positive as belonging to Bowen and they were forcefully removed according to an expert analyst.
The defense urged the jury to understand there was no physical evidence linking Bowen’s vehicle to the crime.
The prosecution stressed the trace evidence results could not be given significant weight since they were collected over two weeks after Doyle’s death and after Bowen had washed his car and changed his tires.
Both the defense and prosecution questioned Knutson about the measurement of the tire tracks found at the scene of Doyle’s death. It ultimately couldn’t be determined if the tracks were an exact match in measurement to Bowen’s truck or to Eynetich’s truck, although all three measurements were within a small range of one another.
When Eynetich took the stand, he admitted he told a co-worker he wanted Doyle off his work crew, but maintained he had nothing to do with Doyle’s death.
The jury had its first opportunity to see autopsy photos when Dr. Thomas Bennett was called to the stand. Bennett is a physician and a forensic pathologist out of Billings.
Bennett explained how a body never lies.
“To the living, you owe compassion, but to the dead, you owe truth,” Bennett said.
Bennett said it was clear Doyle was run over by a car moving slow — less than five miles per hour. He also said Doyle was very likely lying down at the time he was run over. The only way Doyle had jumped out of the vehicle and slid underneath, the way the defense alleged it might have happened, was if Doyle grabbed onto something outside the vehicle that propelled him toward the vehicle rather than away, Bennett said.
Bennett told the jury Doyle was severely injured by a vehicle, but that he definitely died of hypothermia. He said Doyle would have likely survived if he received proper aid.
The defense questioned Bennett and introduced the phenomenon of paradoxical disrobing. Paradoxical disrobing is when a person suffering from hypothermia starts to believe they are actually hot and decides to take off some or all of their clothes.
Bennett said he couldn’t rule out the possibility Doyle had put on his hat and gloves and then removed them or that he may have taken off his own shoes and belt. This was an important point for the defense because it could possibly prove Doyle wasn’t hit immediately after getting out of Bowen’s vehicle.
Dr. John Jurist was called as a witness on the last day of trial by the defense. Jurist told the jury he agreed with most of Bennett’s observations about his death including the assumptions he was run over at a low speed, he was not involved in a significant physical altercation before his death, and he was likely lying on the ground while run over.
He told the defense it was possible Doyle was struck while standing, but only if the vehicle was going less than two miles per hour. He said he disagreed with Bennett’s conclusion on how Doyle’s body would have landed if Doyle had been whipped under the car while it was moving.
He disagreed the right rear wheel would have run Doyle over in that scenario, contrary to Bennett’s thoughts. Ultimately, the two men agreed on the key circumstances under which Doyle was run over.
At 11:30 a.m., June 6, the defense rested. Check back for the final chapter of the Charles Bowen saga and find out what led the jury to a guilty verdict.