Murder

(NCE FILE PHOTO/GREGORY MYERS)

Garett Kirts is shown being escorted into the Newton County Courthouse for an Omnibus hearing July 10.

KENTLAND — Garrett Kirts who has been the main suspect in the March 30, 2019 homicide of Nicole Bowen of West Lafayette accepted a plea deal that was approved by Newton County Superior Court Judge Daniel Molter on Sept. 4.

The plea deal calls for Kirts to plead guilty for murdering Bowen and the prosecution would not pursue life in prison without parole and recommend a sentence of 55 years.

When asked about his guilty plea by Judge Molter, Kirts informed the court that he, Ashley Garth, Chris Mathis, and Mickey Hittle were at the Kentland Trailer Park but left to go south to get more drugs. Kirts said that is when he was told that Bowen had snitched on him and Jason Palladino for cooking meth. He testified that he along with Garth and Palladino decided that Bowen had to die and set it up for her to meet them at the trailer park.

Bowen’s body was found in a hunting shack in the area of CR 1275 S east of CR 600 W northwest of Kentland.

According to Kirts, once Bowen arrived Garth started a fistfight with her and he went behind her and put her in a chokehold until she passed out. Kirts went on to say that he asked Garth for an extension cord and then wrapped it around Bowen’s neck but Garth is the one that pulled on it until she stopped breathing.

“It is a sad situation but I believe this is an appropriate outcome,” said Newton County Prosecutor Jeff Drinski. “I am confident that the family approves of this deal.”

Sentencing for Kirts has been scheduled for Jan. 11 at 10 a.m.

Garth has also entered into a plea agreement and that plea has been taken under advisement by the court but no public ruling has been made on it as of date. She is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on Oct. 21.

No charges have been filed against Palladino yet, but Drinski informed the Newton County Enterprise that the investigation is ongoing.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed against Kirts, police believe the murder occurred in Lot 20 of the trailer court.

In early conversations with police, Kirts told Newton County Detective Mike Rowe 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 also stated 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 told police 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 (later described as a hunting shack) and an excavator nearby. Kirts told police that he realized with the excavator on the same road, the road had to be traveled and where he figured Bowen’s body would eventually be found.

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.