The Death of Donald Vowels

Once again I have chosen to blog about a case that happened in my local area in southern Indiana.  This case is a bit different than most however.  For one, it was not necessarily very high profile I do not believe.  I am sure that at a local level it caused much controversy because I was able to obtain a large amount of information on the case, but almost exclusively through the local newspaper but very little when it came to other sources of information.  Secondly, unlike many of the cases I have blogged about recently from this area, this one does not involve the death penalty.  However, in keeping with tradition it does hold a lot of questions both about the activity and the people involved. After researching this case I have even asked myself if any one of us could not have ended up in the situation in which one of the perpetrated found herself and if her role and sentence was just and deserved.

On April 4, 1991 in an apartment in Evansville Indiana a day long party was going on.  Connie Long (37) lived in the apartment with her 18 year old daughter Jennifer.  Connie was dating 52 year old Donald Vowels who was also present.  The others there that day were Jennifer's boyfriend, 21 year old William Koenig, his 18 year old roommate, Brad Gainer, 25 year old Kimberly Howell and a juvenile female that I was unable to obtain a name for.  By the end of the day everyone in the home was alive, save Donald Vowels.  When investigators and EMT's arrived they found Donald Vowels laying at the bottom of the steps inside the apartment.  Initially it was believed that there had been an accidental fall but within a few days it was determined that was not likely true and Connie Long was charged with murder for intentionally shoving Vowels down the steps.  As the investigation went on, people were interviewed and results from things came in, not only the cause of death came into question but just who was responsible.

It was determined rather early that there was alcohol, and likely a lot of it, involved in this case. Connie Long had initially been charged with murder because witnesses told the police that they heard Vowels and Long upstairs arguing and then Vowels had fell down the stairs.  It was later determined that she had in fact shoved hi down the stairs.  Investigators also determined that there had been a plot planned between the five younger people (this did not include Connie Long) to rob Donald Vowels of money.  Apparently previously in the day Vowels had given William Koenig some money that Connie Long owed him for marijuana.  It was then believed that Vowels was in possession of quite a bit of money and Koenig, Jennifer Long, Bra Gainer, Kim Howell and the unnamed juvenile began trying to determine ways to get it.  Apparently after several unsuccessful attempts Jennifer Long came up with a new plan.  At this point Vowels was in an upstairs bedroom sleeping.  She decided she would go up and come back down yelling that Vowels had molested her in some way.  It seems that investigators were able to determine that Connie Long had no idea of this plot, or any other attempts being made.  According to all of the participants (save Koenig) it was thought that if this plot was followed through on that Connie Long would then throw Vowels out and they could then rob him outside or during all the chaos.  Koenig claimed he was not involved in this idea but the others stated that he was and that Koenig had said that when Jennifer Long came down stairs it would give him a reason to go upstairs and fight with Vowels.

So Jennifer Long did just as she planned and came down the stairs yelling, just as she said she would. Koenig then headed up the stairs first, followed by the others.  He apparently struck Vowels twice while they all attempted to get to his wallet.  Kimberly Howell would later testify in court that she was the one who did get a hold of his wallet and that it was empty.  In the process of all of this Connie Long and Vowels began arguing.  Apparently she believed her daughter when she said that Vowels had touched her in some manner and just as the perpetrators had suspected she was angry and they began to fight.  It was at this point that Connie Long pushed Donald Vowels and he fell down the stairs.

When the autopsy results came in it was determined that he had died from bleeding on the brain but where it became confusing was whether that head injury was from the front or the back and whether the blows to the head had been the cause of death or the fall down the stairs.  Prosecutors some how decided that it was the punches that Koenig had thrown that caused his death and decided to charge him with murder while down grading Connie Long's charges from murder to attempted murder.

Since the juvenile was unnamed all I was able to determine was that she was sent to the Indiana Girls School for a period of time and I was unable to find out if she later faced any more charges.  At the time the articles I read said that was to be determined at a later date.  In the end six people were charged in some form for being involved in this death.  The three woman, Connie Long, her daughter Jennifer and Kim Howell all received plea deals.  Connie Long pleaded guilty to battery and received a sentence of six years (she was released in December of 1993); Jennifer Long pleaded guilty to robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery and received a sentence of 10 years (she was released in May of 1998).  Kim Howelll received a sentence of 18 months at a half way house and 6 months of house arrested when she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery.  She was also ordered to obtain her GED while serving her time and all three women were required to testify against Koenig at his up coming trial.  Brad Gainer was set to plead guilty and receive a sentence of 18 months of house arrest but the day before he was to appear in court he died in an auto accident at the age of 19.  It is believed that he fell asleep at the wheel while driving home after working the overnight shift the night before.  This solely left William Koenig.

He took his chances at trial and like so many other cases we often see he claimed to be not guilty.  Despite witness claims that he was in on the plot involving Jennifer Long claiming to have been molested by Vowels, after a few different versions of his story at trial he stuck with the one that said he did not know about it.  He admitted to hitting Vowels twice but said he did so believing Jennifer Long.  Just how Vowels was positioned when Koenig struck him the second time came into question. If he was laying flat down on the floor when he was struck as opposed to standing up or not having his head on the floor could have determined just how much damage that second blow would have done.  Koenig said Vowel's head was not against the floor while at least one witness said that it was. To be truthful, although I know this was a bit important I do not think anyone will ever know for sure.  When things like that happen it is generally too fast to know for sure.  That does not mean anyone lied or was purposely untruthful, it just is not something that can be relied upon in testimony. Defense attorneys were successful in pointing out that there was no way of knowing if it was the blows Koenig gave or the fall that caused Vowel's death and he was acquitted of murder.  However, they obviously did not believe their story about Koenig being an innocent person simply defending his then girlfriend. The jury convicted him of attempted robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and for battery.  Before sentencing his lawyer's rightfully (in my opinion) pointed out that all the other participants in the incident had been offered and taken plea deals which gave them anywhere from 2-10 years.  Apparently the judge was not impressed with that argument and sentenced Koenig to 40 years for the attempted robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery with an additional 8 years for the battery charge.  I was a bit confused when I looked Koenig up on the Indiana Department of Corrections website.  According to that site he received 32 years for this charge and it showed that his projected parole date was in January of 2011 on those charges.  However, it then stated that he was convicted of "unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious felon" in November of 2006 and his new projected parole date is May of 2016.  The second conviction also took place in Vanderburgh County, which is Evansville so it seems he was released sometime before 2006 and was then convicted again although this is not certain on my part.

The part of this case that disturbs me aside from the fact that an innocent man was murdered for what ended up not being nothing is Connie Long.  Now, I do not know any of the people in this case personally so I can only speculate through the information that I can get through media articles but it seems to me that she had no idea of the plot that the others had concocted and while she obviously should not have pushed Vowels it is almost understandable or foreseeable in the in situation.  Most reports indicate that after Jennifer Long accused Vowels of touching her he was obviously outraged and angry and said some derogatory things about Jennifer. So there are seven people in the home at the time, one of them is being accused of doing something he has not done, five people also know he did not do this but are pretending that they believe it and there's one person who has to pick a side as to what to believe.  As a parent Connie Long presumably picked the right side and defended her daughter who she believed was telling the truth.  The fact Vowels was denying it would mean nothing.  I mean how many people would admit that they had done that? The reality of it is that as a parent it appears that Connie was enraged that her daughter had apparently been touched and lashed out.  Should she have shoved him down the stairs?  No. Would one of us have done that?  Maybe. But the sad part is that Connie Long received a six year sentence for something that only happened because her daughter lied to her.

Comments

  1. Koenig got out in April of 04 after his first charge

    ReplyDelete
  2. Correction was 05 not 04

    ReplyDelete

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