BLOOMINGTON, Indiana — A southern Indiana man whose DNA was found at the home of an 81-year-old World War II veteran who was fatally beaten and strangled has been acquitted of murder charges.
A Monroe County jury deliberated more than eight hours Friday before finding Andrew Cooper, 34, not guilty of murder and felony murder in the October 2006 slaying of Sid Cowden.
But the Bloomington man still faces charges of burglary and robbery resulting in injury because jurors couldn't reach agreement on his guilt or innocence on those charges, The Herald-Times reported (http://bit.ly/1NKbrqq ).
Jurors had been instructed that even if they thought someone else killed Cowden, Cooper would be guilty of felony murder if he was present when Cowden was slain. Cooper testified he had never met Cowden.
But he could not explain how his DNA got on two cigarette butts found at Cowden's Ellettsville home, or how the print from his left ring finger got on the inside of Cowden's pickup truck.
During his testimony, Cooper speculated he may have done work at Cowden's home at some point prior to his death.
"I've never murdered anybody," he told jurors.
Cooper's attorney, Phyllis Emerick, acknowledged there was DNA and fingerprint evidence against her client, but said that alone was not enough to link him to Cowden's killing.
"There are a million innocent reasons for the fingerprint and the cigarette butts," she said.
Monroe County deputy prosecutor Jeff Kehr asked the jurors to use their common sense and judgment in deciding Cooper's guilt or innocence in the killing. "How can you reconcile his DNA being there and him saying he never met Mr. Cowden?" he asked the jury.
After the verdicts, Cooper was returned to the Monroe County Jail. He will have a bail review hearing within days at which a bond amount likely will be set.
Kehr said a second suspect in Cowden's killing would be charged in time. Authorities have said that person's DNA matched blood found smeared on a door of Cowden's home. That person is already in an Indiana prison, serving a 30-year sentence for child molesting.
Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com