Public Safety

Cody Brown convicted in the death of girlfriend Stephanie Bowling

Jury deliberated just over 2 hours

Cody Brown testifies Wednesday in his involuntary manslaughter trial in Linn County District Court in Cedar Rapids. Thursday, a jury found him guilty in the 2018 death of Stephanie Bowling. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Cody Brown testifies Wednesday in his involuntary manslaughter trial in Linn County District Court in Cedar Rapids. Thursday, a jury found him guilty in the 2018 death of Stephanie Bowling. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Rejecting Cody Brown’s assertion he was only trying to defend himself, a Linn County jury Thursday found him guilty in the death of his girlfriend, Stephanie Bowling, 24, who prosecutors say was “flipped or thrown” during an argument that escalated from text messages.

Brown, 27, of Walford, took the stand Wednesday, testifying Bowling was “angry” and shoved him, so he pushed back — but then she “charged” him again as he turned to leave June 28, 2018. He told different versions of the events that happened in those early morning hours, but one tragic result remained consistent.

Bowling fell on the concrete walkway outside her Cedar Rapids apartment and died from blunt force head injuries two days later.

The jury deliberated just over two hours, finding Brown guilty of involuntary manslaughter. He faces up to five years in prison.

Brown’s face was red as he left the courtroom Thursday with his family, who supported him throughout the trial.

Bowling’s family and friends seemed relieved by the verdict. The family took turns hugging First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks and assistant attorney Jennifer Erger for their work in prosecuting the case.

“This outcome and knowing we did justice for the family and Stephanie makes our jobs worthwhile,” Erger said. “Our heart goes out to the family and friends.”

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Maybanks said he also wanted to thank the jury for their “time and sacrifice in reaching the truth about what happened to Stephanie.”

Maybanks, in his closing argument, said Brown’s version of what happened didn’t match the evidence.

Brown, as he testified, turned his back to Bowling after she pushed him and he pushed back, Maybanks said. Then Bowling “charges or “sprints” at him — but how could she put her hands on his waist, as Brown had said, and how could he “direct” her off to his side if his back was to her? Maybanks asked.

It made more sense, Maybanks said, that Bowling turned away from him to walk away and Brown grabbed her and threw her down on the concrete.

The prosecutor noted that Bowling broke up with Brown that night, but he continued to pursue an argument that had started earlier. Text messages show it wasn’t just an “obsessive” relationship, Maybanks said, but one of “control.”

Brown wanted Bowling to talk to him and got upset when she wouldn’t, Maybanks said. He started fights over nothing and got mad when Bowling answered only “OK.” She asked him to let it go, to “move on” — but he wouldn’t, the prosector argued. He laid out a timeline for the jury:

—11:45 p.m. June 27, 2018: Brown arrives at Bowling’s. After having sex, Brown is leaning over, still trying to get her to talk. She doesn’t like it and pushes him off her. He gets mad and punches a door. She asks him to leave.

—1:55 a.m. June 28: Brown leaves but calls her 15 times within 10 minutes until 2:05 a.m.

—2:05 a.m.: Brown goes back to Bowling’s. They argue more.

—2:23 a.m.: He leaves again and he calls her 17 times until 2:27 a.m.

—2:32 a.m.: He goes back and Bowling sends a text to friend, Malyssa Cooper, saying Brown is banging on her door. Bowling tells her she broke up with him.

—2:33 a.m.: Brown leaves and calls Bowling twice.

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—2:42 a.m.: Bowling tells Cooper that “He’s here again.” Cooper tells her to call police.

—2:44 a.m.: Bowling tells Cooper “No. Stop.” This is her last text.

—2:45 a.m.: Cathleen Covington, neighbor of Bowling’s, looks out a peephole and sees Brown standing over Bowling, asking, “Have you had enough?” A few minutes later, she hears Brown say, “Are you done yet?”

—2:49 a.m.: Brown calls 911 when Bowling is foaming at the mouth.

Brown testified Bowling was moving around and shaking, which is consistent with a head injury, Maybanks said.

She likely was having a seizure, but Brown didn’t get her help or immediately check on her. Instead, he walked away and then moved his truck. When she was foaming at the mouth, he decided to roll her over and drag her inside the apartment and call 911.

Maybanks said Brown was more worried about himself. After police arrived, Brown said “If she’s dead, my life is (expletive).”

“Brown hasn’t accepted any responsibility,” Maybanks told the jury. “He blames Stephanie for his actions.”

Tom Viner, Brown’s attorney, said in his losing argument that the prosecution didn’t prove its case. The evidence was insufficient for a conviction, he said.

“The story you’ve heard come from Mr. Brown — but the state doesn’t want you to believe it,” Viner said.

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He said Bowling appeared angry in the text messages, but they lack the context of “tone.”

As soon as Brown realized something was wrong, he called 911. Even the emergency room doctor, the defense attorney argued, didn’t initially know Bowling had a head injury.

“Is it surprising Cody wouldn’t know what happened?” Viner asked.

Brown remains free on bail pending sentencing Sept. 27 in Linn County District Court.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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