Ashley Garth walk

(NCE PHOTO/GREGORY MYERS)

Ashley Garth is shown Dec. 18 being escorted to the Newton County Superior Court.

KENTLAND – New developments were learned and additional charges were filed in the homicide of Nicole Bowen of West Lafayette, whose body was found in a hunting shack in the area of CR 1275 S east of CR 600 W northwest of Kentland on March 30.

Ashley Garth of Delphi entered the Newton County Superior Courtroom Nov. 18 visibly upset with tears in her eyes to foreshadow how the day in court would go for her.

Garth’s original charge of assisting a criminal was dismissed while three new felony counts were filed against her including murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Garth faces 45 to 65 years for the count of murder and 20 to 40 years for conspiracy.

“DNA results directly tie Garth to the strangulation of Nicole Bowen,” Newton County Prosecutor Jeff Drinski told the Newton County Enterprise.

Drinksi said he could not comment on the evidence that led to the conspiracy charge, but according to the probable cause affidavit, Garrett Kirts, who up until Dec. 18 was the only one of the five suspects in the case to be charged with homicide, had told officers that Garth was heavily involved in the killing of Bowen.

The probable cause affidavit states that on April 4, 2019, an interview was conducted with co-defendant Garett Kirts at the Newton County Sheriff’s Office. Kirts under the advisement of Miranda Warnings was asked if he had did this by himself (referring to the killing of Bowen) and he replied no. Kirts told police that Ashley (Garth) helped him with the extension cord, she initiated the fight, and she had her arm around Nicole’s throat for a minute until he could get his arm around Nicole’s neck. He additionally stated Ashley handed him the extension cord and handed him the scarf but he tied it around Nicole’s neck. Kirts also said that Ashley helped him tape Nicole’s body up and that she tied a knot in the extension cord that she unplugged from the TV and wall. Before she handed it to him she said: “I know you are going to need this.”

The probable cause affidavit also details two separate interviews with Garth on April 3 and 4.

On April 3, 2019, at approximately 1:15 pm an interview was conducted with the Garth at the Lafayette, IN Police Department. After receiving a Miranda Warnings waiver, Ashley Garth said she was with Kirts in a relationship and Nicole was a rival and enemy because she was the other woman in his life.

The affidavit goes on to state that an altercation/fight occurred between Garth and Bowen inside the trailer at lot 20 over that relationship with Kirts.

On April 4, 2019, an interview was conducted with Garth at the Newton County Sheriffs Office and Ashley was asked what caused her to fight with Bowen and Garth replied “Nicole was (sleeping with) her boyfriend Garrett.

According to the affidavit, during the course of the investigation evidentiary items were collected and transferred to the Indiana State Lab for DNA analysis. Of those items, one consisted of nail scrapings of the victim (Nicole Bowen) of both her right and left hand.

On Dec. 16, 2019, the Certificate of Analysis from the Indiana State Police Laboratory was received and the analysis provides strong support for the proposition that Garth is a contributor to the DNA profile of the fingernail scrapings from the victim’s left and right hands. The analysis also provides support for the proposition that Garth is a contributor to the DNA profile on the scarf collected from around Bowen’s neck and tape cardboard tube also collected from around Bowen’s neck.

Drinski also told The Enterprise that a previous plea offer to Kirts is now off the table after negotiations have broken down and that he has filed a motion to set the case for a jury trial in which he will be seeking a sentence of life without parole.

According to a probable cause affidavit that was released in April, Kirts had confessed to law enforcement about his role in the killing of Bowen.

Kirts told police that his current girlfriend Ashley Garth had problems with Bowen. Kirts went on to say that Garth was already at the trailer (lot 20) and he was driving Bowen there so they could hash it out or fight it out.

The probable cause affidavit states that as soon as Bowen arrived and entered the trailer, she didn’t feel comfortable but an argument and physical fight occurred. Kirts then told police that he grabbed Bowen from behind and placed his right arm around her neck and applied pressure for several minutes, causing her to collapse and go unconscious. Kirts than stated that he did not want Bowen to wake up, so he tied a scarf around her neck tightly. Kirts also added that a brown extension cord was also tied tightly around her neck and that it was tied so tight that it caused the cord end to break.

Kirts added that he then placed tape over her mouth, a plastic bag over her head, bound her hands behind her back and feet with tape. He then wrapped her body in a grey blanket and wrapped tape around her body and blanket.

Kirts confirmed to police during the interrogation that he loaded Bowen’s body into the trunk of a vehicle.

Also according to the probable cause affidavit, Kirts informed police that he contacted Chris Mathis to help dispose of the body. Kirts left the trailer and picked up Mathis at his residence in Kentland and drove around the country until they discovered an area containing a shipping container and an excavator nearby. Kirts told police that he realized with the excavator on the same road, the road had to be traveled and Bowen’s body would be located. Kirts drove into the field and he and Mathis removed Bowen’s body from the truck and carried her body to the shipping type container and laid her on the wooden floor.

Police state that during Kirts’ interrogation, details about the trailer, vehicle, condition, and details of Bowen’s body during recovery and autopsy were consistent with the investigation.

Kirts and Garth are just two of the five suspects that were charged in the case of the death of Bowen.

Talitha Beckley of Monticello and Christopher Mathis of Kentland have both been charged with assisting a criminal, while Jasmine N. Parker of Kentland, was sentenced to five years in prison by Newton County Superior Court Judge Daniel Molter on Oct. 7 after she pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal.