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Courts

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Ex-Saint Francis football player gets 6 years in rape

Bower

The hearing was brief. Less than 10 minutes.

The statement from the convicted rapist was short. Five simple words, said in a monotone:

"I apologize for my actions."

And with that, former University of Saint Francis wide receiver Austin Bower received a six-year prison term for taking part in the rape of a woman in 2011.

Bower, 23, appeared in Allen Superior Court Monday to learn his fate and to see whether a judge would accept a plea agreement he and his lawyer had hashed out with prosecutors a month ago.

In return for pleading guilty to one count of rape, Allen County prosecutors recommended he be sentenced to 10 years in prison, with six of those years to be served behind bars. The other four were to be suspended and served on probation.

Judge John F. Surbeck accepted that plea and sentenced Bower accordingly, giving him 33 days credit for time already served in jail.

During Monday's hearing, the young woman victimized by Bower and two other former University of Saint Francis athletes at an off-campus home sat in the gallery with her family. Prosecutors said she did not want to address the court publicly.

On Oct. 10, 2011, the woman went to a home in the 2000 block of Neuhaus Drive, about a mile from the St. Francis campus, and drank vodka.

Bower was at the home, and so, too, were 23-year-old Alex Beierwalter, also a former Saint Francis football player, and 23-year-old Troy Turner, a former junior varsity basketball player at the school.

Soon after drinking the vodka, the woman became ill and went to lie down, according to Allen Superior Court documents.

The next thing she remembered was someone pulling down her pants and underwear, she told investigators.

At some time, according to court papers, she left a voice mail on a friend's cellphone saying: "Help me. Help me. They're all over me. They're holding me down. They're hurting me."

The woman also called police, telling emergency dispatchers she had taken refuge in a bathroom.

Upon arrival, officers found her in a bathtub with blood and a used condom – on which investigators later found Bower's DNA.

When brought in for an interview with detectives, Bower denied having any sexual contact with the woman, said that no DNA would be found on his bed and would not consent to giving a DNA test to police, according to court papers.

And after police confiscated Bower's cellphone, detectives found three photos of the woman as she was lying on a bed.

In two other photos, it appears a man is sexually assaulting her, according to court documents.

"I said 'no' so many times," the woman said during an interview at Fort Wayne's Sexual Assault Treatment Center.

Bower and Turner were formally charged with a felony count of rape in June. Beierwalter was charged with a felony count of criminal deviate conduct.

At the time, officials with the University of Saint Francis said all three men had left the school in 2011.

Beierwalter was the first of the trio to plead guilty, copping to one count of rape in exchange for no more than three years in prison as part of a plea deal. He's scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

Turner pleaded guilty next, admitting to one count of sexual battery in exchange for probation as part of his plea agreement. He is also scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

As part of Beierwalter's and Turner's plea agreements, they were to testify against Bower should his case have gone to trial.

But Bower pleaded guilty soon after Turner.

As part of his plea deal, he must undergo sexual perpetrators counseling. If he completes that and his probation, he can petition the court to have his name removed from Indiana's sex offender registry.

Monday, Bower sat in cuffs and shackles, chained to other Allen County Jail inmates who also had hearings in the same courtroom.

Occasionally he looked over to his family, who were sitting feet away from him in the first row of the gallery.

A few times he smiled.

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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