Public Safety

Marion woman sent 'frantic' texts during fatal argument with boyfriend, friend testifies in manslaughter trial

Cody Brown is charged in death of Stephanie Bowling in 2018

Cody Brown
Cody Brown

CEDAR RAPIDS — A woman who was best friends with 24-year-old Stephanie Bowling said she started receiving emotional and “frantic” text messages early June 28, 2018, while Bowling was arguing with her boyfriend, Cody Brown.

Malyssa Cooper, 25, of Anamosa, testified Wednesday during Brown’s manslaughter trial, that the texts were the last conversation she had with Bowling. Cooper said the messages started after she saw Bowling changed her Facebook status from “in a relationship with Cody Brown” to “single.”

The exchange started at 2:29 a.m. and ended 2:44 a.m. Bowling was sending text messages as the argument was going on with Brown, Cooper said. Cooper said she could tell Bowling was “stressed” or upset as she sent back-to-back messages.

At 2:32 a.m., Bowling texted that Brown just came back “banging on my door.”

“I made him leave.

“He just wants to keep calling me a piece of s---.

“He’s been angry like a month in,” Bowling texted.

Cooper offered to come over but Bowling said she told Brown “We’re done.”

“Well he’s here again,” Bowling texted at 2:42 a.m.

“Call the cops,” Cooper said.

“No stop,” Bowling texted at 2:44 a.m. She didn’t respond after that. Minutes later, police found her unresponsive.

Brown, 27, of Marion, is charged involuntary manslaughter in Bowling’s death. A jury was selected Wednesday morning and the trial is expected to go into next week in Linn County District Court.

The assault charge initially filed against Brown was amended to involuntary manslaughter based on evidence and witness statements, First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks said earlier this month.

A criminal complaint filed last year showed Brown and Bowling were arguing about 2:53 a.m. on June 28, 2018, at her home, 795 Bently Drive. He admitted to picking her up and throwing her to the ground.

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Police said they found Bowling on the living room floor when they arrived. She died from blunt force trauma to the head on June 30, 2018.

During her opening statement Wednesday, Assistant Linn County Attorney Jennifer Erger said evidence won’t show that Brown intended to end Bowling’s life. He wanted to be with her, but she wanted to end their relationship and Brown couldn’t accept it, Erger said.

Another text exchange, this time between Bowling and Brown that early morning, will show how Brown reacted when Bowling took too long to respond to him, Erger said. Brown then called her — 34 times in 38 minutes — and went to her apartment after the last text.

Brown admitted to police that during the argument he physically got on top of her so she couldn’t get up, Erger said. He left the home and came back three times, Erger said, and said Bowling was ignoring him and wouldn’t let the argument end. The last time he came back, he was angry she wouldn’t listen and wanted to end it, Erger said.

Brown ended it by “throwing her over his shoulder onto the concrete” outside her apartment, Erger said.

“The evidence doesn’t support self-defense,” Erger said. “Stephanie was still moving around, her body was shaking as Brown stood over her. He didn’t run to get her aid. He said ‘Are you done yet.’”

Brown did call 911 but not immediately, Erger said. He first moved his truck to the far side of the parking lot, away from her apartment. Then, he came back and dragged her inside the apartment before calling 911.

Brown’s lawyer, Tom Viner, in his opening statement said Brown had scratches on his body from that fight with Bowling on June 28. Brown will testify that Bowling came running at him while they were outside arguing, Viner said, and Brown put out his arm and she “flipped over” him onto the concrete.

There was no blood, Viner said, and Brown didn’t realize what happened to Bowling.

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During the argument, Viner said, Brown did ask “Are you done?” But Brown was also the person who called 911.

“His reaction to her running at him was a split-second decision,” Viner said. Bowling and Brown weighed about the same, Viner said.

The trial continues Thursday. If convicted, Brown faces five years in prison.

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

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