Public Safety

Cody Brown testifies he didn't intend to hurt girlfriend in fatal fight

Brown said she tried to harm him, he was only defending himself

Cody Brown points to his shoulder as he testifies about being struck by Stephanie Bowling in his trial in Linn County District Court in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. Brown is on trial for involuntary manslaughter in the 2018 death of Stephanie Bowling. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Cody Brown points to his shoulder as he testifies about being struck by Stephanie Bowling in his trial in Linn County District Court in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. Brown is on trial for involuntary manslaughter in the 2018 death of Stephanie Bowling. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Cody Brown said his girlfriend Stephanie Bowling was “angry” when she shoved him, so he pushed her back and she “charged” at him as he turned to leave in those early hours of June 28, 2018.

Brown, charged with involuntary manslaughter, testified he didn’t intend to hurt Bowling, but he believed she intended to hurt him. He didn’t throw her over his shoulder, he said. He “basically redirected” her off him. He wasn’t “directing” her to the ground.

“This was a split second decision,” said Brown, 27, of Walford.

The defense rested after Brown’s testimony. Closing arguments will be 9 a.m. Thursday in Linn County District Court.

A criminal complaint shows Brown and Bowling, 24, were arguing about 2:53 a.m. June 28, 2018, outside her Marion apartment at 795 Bentley Drive.

During interviews with police, Brown said she ran at him, he “flipped or threw” her over his shoulder and she landed on the concrete walkway, according to testimony presented to jurors last week.

Police said they found Bowling unresponsive on the living room floor when they arrived. She died from blunt force trauma to the head two days later on June 30.

Brown is claiming self-defense.

As he spoke from the stand Wednesday, Brown said the argument happened at the threshold of Bowling’s apartment door. No words were exchanged between the two and no screaming or yelling as Bowling “attacked” him, he said.

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The two hadn’t argued about anything “specific” before this, except communication, he said. Brown said they had two different styles of communicating — he wanted to talk about things and she didn’t.

He got off work that night about 11:30 p.m. on June 27 at GoDaddy, where he and Bowling met in January 2018 and started dating at the end of March or early April. They had sex and started arguing as he was leaning over her in bed, he said. He knew Bowling was upset but when she hit his arm and pushed him off, “I was a little shocked,” he said.

Brown admitted to getting upset and hitting a door. Bowling told him to leave, he said, and he drove around about 10 minutes but came back. They argued more and then Bowling punched him in the chest. Brown left again but he came back because he thought the relationship was “salvageable,” he said.

She was upset, Brown said. They argued again and she pushed him, he pushed back and she “ran at him.” He was at the doorway and she was about 7 or 8 feet into the living room. He moved back or ran, and Bowling told him “Yeah, you better run,” Brown said.

That’s when Bowling “charged him” and he pushed her off to the side, Brown said. He thought she might be trying to “hurt” him.

Brown showed no emotion during his testimony. His demeanor was calm and he repeatedly made eye contact with the jurors.

Brown admits he wasn’t alarmed when Bowling was on the ground. He said, “Are you done?” — he said he meant done with fighting. Brown said there wasn’t any blood and she was mumbling and moving her arms and legs.

He started walking away to his truck, convinced she was mad at him.

“She had her hand in a fist,” Brown said.

He thought it was odd she didn’t get up but he went ahead and moved his truck because he wasn’t parked in parking space. He asked if she was OK but had no response. He said he thought she was just “knocked out.”

Brown couldn’t pick her up because she was a “tad bit” bigger than him but he rolled her over, face down, and dragged her by the wrists inside the apartment. She was foaming at the mouth at this point. Brown said he didn’t realize it was serious until then and called 911.

He said he never saw Bowling’s head injury.

Tom Viner, Brown’s lawyer asked him how he was feeling at that time.

Brown said he had so many emotions — “nervous, scared, worried.” He cared about Bowling, he said.

First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks quickly fired questions at Brown about their text messages where the two were arguing back and forth on June 27, leading up to her death.

In the texts, Brown seemed upset that Bowling didn’t want to talk to him and wouldn’t say she loved him or that she was anxious to see him, like he was telling her, according to testimony last week.

“Isn’t it true that Stephanie broke up with you that night?” Maybanks asked Brown.

No, Brown said. She may have said “We’re done,” but she wasn’t serious, he said.

Maybanks said Bowling told her friend Malyssa Cooper in a text that “she told you she was done.”

Brown, after reading the text, agreed. But he said he didn’t know Bowling was sending text messages during their argument.

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Maybanks asked if Brown understood the difference between “wanting to be with someone and wanting to control someone.”

Brown said he didn’t want to control her. He said he was concerned about their relationship.

“Things were not working out?” Maybanks said.

“I didn’t see it that way,” Brown said.

Maybanks asked if his actions caused her to fall.

“No,” Brown said. “I redirected her. I put up my hands to defend myself. I never directed her toward the ground.”

Maybanks asked Brown if he told police he “shoved her decently hard.”

Brown admitted he “shoved” her.

Maybanks asked if he apologized to her while she was lying on the ground.

Brown said no. She “charged me.” He said he wasn’t sorry. He was defending himself.

If convicted, Brown faces five years in prison.

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

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