KENTLAND — Newton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Drinski has filed a motion to withdraw a plea agreement with Ashley Garth in connection to the 2019 murder of a Lafayette woman.
The motion was filed Oct. 2, 2020, in the Newton County Superior Court.
According to court documents, the motion was filed because on or around Sept. 11, 2020, Garth, of Delphi, violated the terms of her proffer letter by failing to provide truthful testimony in the homicide of Nicole Bowen.
Garth pled guilty June 18 to assisting a criminal (Level 5 felony). With the plea agreement, Garth signed a proffer letter, which requires the defendant to provide truthful testimony with regard to the murder of Bowen.
Drinksi is asking the court to withdraw the plea agreement and set the manner for a jury trial.
Bowen’s body was found March 30, 2019, in a hunting shack northwest of Kentland. It was determined that she had been strangled.
During initial interviews with police in April 2019, Garth told investigators she and Garrett Kirts, who pleaded guilty last month to his role in Bowen’s death, were in a relationship and Bowen was considered “a rival and enemy” because she was the other woman in Kirts’ life.
Garth went on to tell police that an altercation occurred between herself and Bowen inside a home at the Kentland Trailer Park over that relationship with Kirts. The next day, Garth was asked by police what caused her to fight with Bowen and she replied, “Nicole was (sleeping with) her boyfriend, Garrett.
According to the probable cause affidavit, during the course of the investigation, several pieces of evidence were collected and transferred to the Indiana State Lab for DNA analysis. Of those items, one consisted of nail scrapings from Bowen’s right and left hands.
On Dec. 16, 2019, the Indiana State Police Laboratory revealed analysis that identify Garth as a contributor to DNA found on the fingernail scrapings. The analysis also provides that Garth is a contributor to DNA on a scarf collected from around Bowen’s neck, as well as a tape cardboard tube also collected from around Bowen’s neck.
When Kirts pleaded guilty last month, he said that he, Garth, Chris Mathis and Mickey Hittle were at the Kentland Trailer Park but left to go get drugs. Kirts said that is when he was told that Bowen had snitched on him and another man, Jason Palladino, for cooking meth.
Kirts 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.
According to Kirts, once Bowen arrived, Garth started a fistfight with her and he went behind (Bowen) 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 Bowen stopped breathing.
Sentencing for Kirts has been scheduled for 10 a.m. CT Jan. 11.
Garth was initially set for a sentencing hearing Oct. 21, but instead the court will discuss the Drinski’s motion to withdraw the plea agreement.