Winchester police say accused murderer's story at odds with facts

Police: call records show accused lied, was near fatal shootout

jkegley@herald-leader.comJune 9, 2011 

WINCHESTER — Aaron Lewis told police he hadn't been to Winchester in years, but his cellphone records told a different story.

It was one of several statements that didn't add up as police investigated a robbery and shooting in which two men died and Lewis was injured, Winchester police Capt. James Hall testified Wednesday.

At 12:48 p.m. May 23, about 15 minutes before the shooting, a call was made on Lewis' phone that sent a signal to a cellular tower 2 miles from the Winchester duplex where the shooting occurred, Hall said.

Thirteen minutes after the shooting, Lewis was dropped off at St. Joseph East in Lexington with a gunshot wound to the back. The same cellphone sent a signal to a tower near the hospital, Hall said.

During a preliminary hearing in Clark District Court, he revealed several details that led police to charge Lewis with first-degree robbery and murder.

Lewis, wearing a neck brace and handcuffs, stayed silent during the hearing.

The shootings happened at the Redwing Drive home of Phillip Howard, 29, who died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Police have said Lewis and Demontez Cowherd kicked in Howard's front door and tried to rob him, but Howard was armed with a revolver. Cowherd, 25, was killed in the ensuing shootout.

After the shooting ended, neighbors saw a dark Dodge Magnum flee the neighborhood. St. Joseph East surveillance video captured a Magnum, registered to Demontez Cowherd's girlfriend, dropping Lewis off at the emergency room entrance, Hall said.

The hospital alerted police. When detectives interviewed Lewis, his answers were vague, Hall said.

Lewis told them he was shot after getting a ride to the Tates Creek area to meet with a woman. He told police two men jumped out of a car, demanded money and shot him, Hall said.

Lewis said he didn't know the woman's last name, address or phone number, or the name of the person who gave him a ride.

When detectives showed Lewis a photo of Cowherd, Lewis said he didn't recognize him. But Cowherd's phone number was stored in Lewis' cellphone under the name "Monty," Cowherd's nickname, Hall said.

Hall said police recovered two guns at the scene — a .40-caliber pistol in Cowherd's hand and a .357 Magnum that belonged to Howard. They also found several spent shell casings from a high-powered rifle, which was not found.

Howard, who was drifting in and out of consciousness when police arrived, pointed at Cowherd and said he had broken in, Hall said.

Chief District Judge Earl-Ray Neal waived the case to the grand jury after listening to about 30 minutes of testimony from Hall.

After the hearing, Molly Carter, a cousin of Howard, said Howard was "a good man who didn't bother nobody."

Howard was supposed to graduate last Thursday from National College with a degree in industrial and systems engineering, she said.

The last time Carter and Howard talked, Carter said she apologized because she would not be in town for the graduation ceremony. She said she wished him well and told him she loved him, and that he inspired her to go back to school.

"The last time we talked was the best talk," she said. "Justice will be served."

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