Man charged with murder appears in court for initial hearing

Posted on Jan. 2, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Jan. 2, 2014 at 2:48 p.m.

GOSHEN — A man charged with murder in connection with a 2012 fatal shooting in Elkhart County appeared in Elkhart’s Circuit Court for his initial hearing.

Travion Kirkland, 20, was arrested on a warrant Dec. 31, 2013, at his home in Roseland, Ind. The warrant for his arrest was issued Dec. 18.

During his initial hearing, Kirkland told the court he was in the process of hiring an attorney. Circuit Court Judge Terry Shewmaker scheduled an attorney status conference for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 9.

Kirkland is accused of shooting Jesse Bowen in his Baugo Township home April 16, 2012. The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department was called to reports of a shooting at about 10:48 p.m. at 56649 Best Ave.

Following an autopsy, investigators determined Bowen died of a single gunshot wound to the chest.

According to the probable cause affidavit for Kirkland’s arrest, some of the information Kirkland gave police about his whereabouts did not coincide with information provided by witnesses and some of the evidence police found.

Detectives found a dark blue piece of nylon and a dark blue section of cloth lying along the south side of Wayne Street, which runs along the north side of Bowen’s house.

The piece of nylon was submitted for testing to the Indiana State Police Laboratory and the results showed the presence of a DNA mixture, including Kirkland’s.

Police interviewed Gabriel Bermea, who told them that sometime between 5 and 9 p.m. he received a text message from Kirkland asking if he wanted to “hit a lick,” which Bermea said he thought referred to robbing a drug dealer of drugs or money.

Bermea replied to Kirkland that he did not want to “hit a lick,” he told police.

According to the affidavit, police spoke with Dakota Ellsworth, who was in Bowen’s house when the shooting happened. Ellsworth told police he and Bowen were sitting on a couch when two men entered the house wearing stockings over their faces, and one of the two men — whom he identified as Kirkland — was holding a handgun and demanding money from Bowen.

Ellsworth said Kirkland and Bowen began to struggle, which ended when Kirkland shot Bowen. Ellsworth ran out the back door to a neighbor’s home to get help.

Soon after the shooting, Ellsworth told his girlfriend, Kaylee Smetanka, that Kirkland had shot Bowen. After contacting other people, Smetanka got a text message from Kirkland saying he was in South Bend and that he could not have killed Bowen.

According to the affidavit, police talked with Tyler Grose, who received a text from Kirkland asking for a ride from South Bend to Elkhart at about 11 p.m. the day of the shooting, but Grose declined Kirkland’s request. At about 11:30 p.m. Grose called Kirkland to ask him about the shooting, but Kirkland said he was driving back to Elkhart from South Bend and just getting off the bypass.

Charles Miller also spoke with police, and told them he received a text from Kirkland asking for a ride from South Bend to Elkhart at about 10:54 p.m. Before Miller could respond he received a text from Smetanka, who told him about the shooting.

Miller texted Kirkland back, asking about the shooting, to which Kirkland replied, “I’m just now getting here and I’m cool with him.”

Detectives then talked with Kirkland, who told them he knew Bowen for nine months and that he had bought marijuana from him before, according to the affidavit.

Kirkland told police his cousin, DeAndre Jones, picked him up from South Bend in Kirkland’s grandmother’s car at about 10:15 p.m. and they left at about 10:20 p.m. Kirkland said they drove to Baugo Creek Park to smoke marijuana, and that afterward they raced back to the car when Jones tripped and fell onto the car, hitting his head on the driver’s side front fender.

Kirkland later told police that before going to the park, he and his cousin drove through the area of Bowen’s house looking for Miller. When they couldn’t find Miller’s house, they drove to the park, and then they drove back to Kirkland’s grandmother’s house at about 10:40 p.m.

According to the affidavit, detectives looked at the vehicle with which Kirkland said Jones had hit himself but couldn’t find any marks or damage to any part of the car.

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