THE BACK STORY
Sowders’ and Stephens’ arrests came after Clarksville police investigators drafted a probable-cause affidavit that includes statements from an initial suspect who told police Sowders told him, “I did something crazy,” and “Yeah, dude. I shot him,” two days after Baldwin was murdered.
The same man told police Sowders sent him text messages the day before the murder listing items he had in his possession to commit a burglary at the Plum Woods Drive home, including a gun, ski masks and zip ties. Another alleged text read, “We are doing it Monday morning, and the money is there.”
During a following conversation with police, the man said he had deleted the incriminating text messages. At this time, those texts have not been located in the more than 4,000 pages of cell phone records that have been extracted from the phones of several possibly involved parties.
In fact, no text messages have linked Sowders or Stephens to Baldwin’s murder.
When Mull was asked Tuesday if the state has discovered any cell phone text messages implicating the teenagers of the crime, he directed media to the probable-cause affidavit.
“I am not allowed to comment on that under my ethic rules,” he said.
The men were incarcerated since March 21, 10 days after Baldwin’s remains were discovered. Despite requests made by McCall and Weitzel that their clients be tried separately, Carmichael has ruled that the men’s cases will be heard in the same trial. Mull said it benefits Clark County residents to combine Sowders’ and Stephens’ cases in a single trial, which is expected to take several weeks.
“There is a large financial cost to the county for doing a trial,” he said. “Not only is there a financial cost for paying for the trial, but there is a large financial cost to the jury, as far as having to take off work for weeks to sit on jury. That cost people a lot of money and time away from their families.”
Mull said the evidence in each case is the same and that there is no logical reason to present the evidence in one trial then do the same all over again for the second defendant.
Mull confirmed Friday that he does not intend on offering either suspect a plea agreement prior to the trial date.
“It has been my expectation from the very beginning that these cases would both go to a jury trial,” he said.
During the two days of court proceedings this week, the gallery area of the courtroom was full of Sowders’ and Stephens’ loved ones.
“The families have been behind both of these kids all along,” McCall said, referring to the large show of support as “unusual.”
Stephens’ mother said she and others will celebrate the release of her son by taking him to dinner at Texas Roadhouse. After that, she plans on catching up on the lost time by keeping her son close.
“Garreth told me when he comes home he doesn’t want the TV on. He just wants his family there and wants to sit and talk and just be with his family,” she said. “And, that is exactly what we are going to do.”