MIAMI COUNTY — A good friend. He’d give you the shirt off his back. He was always there for you when you needed him. He’d go out of his way to help anyone.
On Thursday in Miami County Common Pleas Court, those epitaphs were repeated by friends and family of Joseph Graley, 31, of New Carlisle, before his puzzling disappearance and later, his tragic death by blunt force trauma last October.
Graley was found deceased by blunt force trauma to the head and face in the backyard of his home on Scarff Road in Bethel Township on Oct. 23, 2014. A family member reported Graley missing on Oct. 22. Sheriff’s officials located Frank Bowen, 25, of Tipp City, at Graley’s home during Graley’s welfare check on Oct. 22 and arrested him on an unrelated warrant.
In previous court proceedings, Bowen pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder, gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and safe-cracking stemming from his arrest on Oct. 22, 2014.
Miami County Prosecutor Tony Kendell and assistant prosecutor Janna Parker called several witnesses to the stand including the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s forensic scientist and fingerprint analyst Ashley Owen, Miami County Sheriff’s Office Detective Steven Hickey, as well as Graley’s mother Terri Coburn and other close friends.
Expert testimony was presented by Owen, who analyzed both Bowen and Graley’s finger and palm prints on Graley’s headboard and on a plastic trash tie from a bag in which Graley’s pet dog was found deceased inside a trash can the home. Only Graley’s and his girlfriend Haley Haney’s prints were found on the headboard. Owen stated she had “more than enough information” to positively identify Bowen’s print on the trash bag tie. When crossed-examined by defense lawyer Steven King, Owen stated while fingerprint analysis did not have “set standards,” all prints are verified by a second examiner at BCI. Owen also stated she does not discern one case from another and is assigned randomly to cases and their evidence. King asked Owen if fingerprints have a “shelf-life.” Owen stated that she cannot date a print.
Detective Steven Hickey testified as having interviewed several family members and friends of Graley’s as well as informing them that Graley had been found deceased behind his Scarff Road home on Oct. 23. Hickey also obtained a search warrant to obtain communication records from the Facebook social media site as part of the investigation. Det. Hickey also performed a DNA swab of Bowen at the Miami County Jail. Hickey said the DNA swabs were then submitted to BCI. Defense lawyer Steven Layman asked Hickey if Bowen was cooperative in submitting the DNA samples, and Hickey stated that Bowen willingly participated in the collection process.
Other witness testimony included Graley’s mother, Terri Coburn, and Coburn’s boyfriend, Bill Fluty, who would stop by Graley’s home on their way to work second shift on a semi-regular basis to bring food and other items to Graley. One of the stories Bowen allegedly told concerned friends was that Graley had traveled to Michigan for an aunt or uncle’s funeral with his mother. Coburn stated she does not have any family members in Michigan. Coburn said she see did not see Graley after Oct. 5, when she dropped off dress clothes for Graley’s job interview the following day. Coburn said on Oct. 5, she wished Graley luck, gave him a hug and left his home for work. She said she never saw her son again.
Coburn said she typically was in contact with Graley at least once a week, but sometimes had difficulty getting in touch with him due to her second-shift work schedule. Coburn said she didn’t hear about his job interview and tried to call Graley. Coburn said she stopped at the home nearly a week later, around Oct. 13, bringing clothes and food to the house. Coburn said Bowen was at the home, but gestured that Graley was asleep, so she left the items and a note for Joe to call her. Coburn said she returned to the home again a few days later after Graley’s friends contacted her on Facebook about Graley’s whereabouts. Coburn went to the home again and found Bowen. Bowen told her Graley had went camping with a friend named “Joey.” Coburn said she noticed the food in the freezer untouched as well as the fact she didn’t recognize “Joey” as someone Graley would camp with. Coburn also noticed Graley’s new car still at the home.
Other witness testimony included Graley’s girlfriend, Haley Hanes, a long-time friend, Billie Ann Eason, who physically searched the property for signs of Graley several times, and Kali Geisecke, a friend of Bowen, Graley and Hanes.
Frank Bowen’s girlfriend, Hannah Domanek, also testified she had found out on Oct. 22 that Bowen had lied about having a second-shift job at a factory in Troy. Domanek has one child, a baby around 1 year of age, with Bowen. She said she had lived with him and his family in South Carolina for seven months before moving back to Ohio to live with her parents in Tipp City. She said Bowen was not allowed to live with her and her three children at her parents’ home because they were not married. Bowen picked her up for an appointment in Graley’s car on Oct. 8 and returned to Graley’s home. Domanek said she last saw Graley on Oct. 5. Bowen told Domanek that Graley wanted him to house-sit and he could borrow his car. Domanek stated Bowen was never violent toward her or her kids. Domanek said she was only at the house on the weekends since Bowen “was at work.” Domanek was at Graley’s home when Bowen was arrested on Oct. 22 on the unrelated warrant. She stated Bowen did not try to flee despite knowing law enforcement was likely on its way to the home that evening.
Bowen remains incarcerated in the Miami County Jail on a $250,000 bond. The trial continues on Friday with Miami County Common Pleas Judge Christopher Gee presiding.
Reach Melanie Yingst at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews