KENTLAND — Newton County Superior Court has withdrawn the plea agreement of Ashley Garth. Garth is one of two people (Garrett Kirts) who have been charged with murder for the death of Nicole Bowen, 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, 2019.
Newton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Drinski filed the motion to have the plea agreement withdrawn. 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 violated the terms of her proffer letter by failing to provide truthful testimony. Garth pled guilty on June 18, 2020, 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.
“Negotiations with Miss Garth broke down about a moth ago,” Drinski said in court Oct.21. “I ask the court to withdraw the plea agreement and reinstate her not guilty plea.”
Drinski informed the court that he would like to continue negotiating a non-trial solution with Garth’s attorney.
Newton County Superior Court Judge Daniel Molter set the final pre-trial hearing for the case on Jan. 27 at 8:30 a.m.
During initial interviews with police back in April 2019, Garth told investigators that she and Garrett Kirts, who has pled guilty to the murder, were in a relationship and Bowen was a rival and enemy because she was the other woman in his life. Garth went on to tell police that an altercation/fight occurred between herself and Bowen inside the trailer at lot 20 of 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 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.
Kirts pled guilty Sept. 4, 2020, to his role in the murder. When asked about his guilty plea by Judge Daniel Molter, Kirts informed the court that he, Ashley Garth, Chris Mathis, and Mickey Hittle was 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.
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.
Sentencing for Kirts has been scheduled for Jan. 11 at 10 a.m.