WHITLEY COUNTY — The murder trial of Chris James Lowe, 40, and Lori Mattie, 39, continued into its third day Thursday. Both Lowe and Mattie are standing trial for the murder of Michelle Marlow, after Marlow was found dead inside the couple’s Old Mud Creek home on July 23, 2017.
Claude Dean, Marlow’s boyfriend at the time, took the stand as the prosecution’s witness on Thursday. Dean says he was at Lowe and Mattie’s home the night before the incident took place, and was also there the night of the incident.
Dean testifies that he had known Marlow for many years, saying the two met in school. The two dated when they were younger, but Dean was later married and then separated. He and Marlow had started darting again and had been dating for approximately six months at the time of her death.
On the night of July 22, Dean said he and Marlow visited the home of Lowe and Mattie. Dean described Lowe as being his best friend before the incident took place, and that it wasn’t uncommon for them to drink together.
Dean said the four of them — himself, Lowe, Mattie, and Marlow — were drinking, dancing and that all four of them had taken the prescription drug Xanax. Dean testified that no physical altercations took place that night.
Dean then testified that everyone had woken up by 9 or 10 a.m. the next morning. He said he and Lowe drank two beers a piece that morning. Afterward, he said everyone left the residence. He and Marlow left in her white Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Dean said the plan between the two couples was to reconvene at Lowe’s home later that evening.
Dean then said he and Marlow went to get lunch, went down to the river where the two of them smoked marijuana, equivalent to the amount of about half a joint. Dean said he and Marlow then went back to Lowe’s home around 2 or 3 p.m., but he said that neither Lowe or Mattie were home.
The couple waited approximately 30 to 40 minutes before leaving. They then went and visited Dean’s ex-boss’s house and retrieved money Dean was owed.
When Dean and Marlow went back to Lowe’s home, Dean said Lowe and Mattie were back and had started drinking by that point.
“They looked like they had the devil in their eyes,” Dean said about Lowe and Mattie upon his arrival.
Dean said the four of them started to drink and everyone was getting along. Then, he stated, Mattie yelled for Lowe to come into their master bedroom. Dean stated Mattie had said something regarding Lowe’s wallet and that it was missing.
Dean said Lowe came out of the master bedroom with his shotgun in his hands. Dean said in his testimony that Mattie was saying Marlow had stolen Lowe’s wallet.
Dean described Lowe as being visibly upset and quoted him saying that “if his wallet wasn't found, he was going to kill us both.”
Dean said he tried pleading with Lowe that neither he nor Marlow had stolen his wallet, but Lowe would not believe him. He even offered to pay Lowe double whatever was missing.
He also stated Mattie was instigating the situation yelling at Lowe that if he didn’t kill Dean and Marlow, she would kill him.
Dean then claims Lowe sat his shotgun down and picked up a large wooden walking stick made. The stick was longer than Dean was tall, which was proven when he was asked to step down from the witness stand. Dean says he is 5-foot, four-inches tall. The walking stick had previously been entered into evidence during the trial.
According to Dean, on July 23 Lowe then struck Marlow on top of her head with the walking stick. Dean said Marlow started bleeding profusely from the strike and that she then said she would look for the wallet inside her Monte Carlo. Dean said this was Marlow looking for a way to escape.
However, once she began looking inside of her vehicle for the wallet, Dean said Mattie stood over top over her, striking her with her fists and therefore, Marlow could not escape. During this time, Dean said Lowe was pacing in the backyard yelling expletives and demanding his wallet be returned.
Lowe ordered everyone back inside the home, according to Dean. Once inside Dean said he asked to leave so he could take Marlow to the hospital. He said Lowe refused to let them leave.
According to Dean, Mattie gave Marlow a dishrag to clean the blood from her head, but then she and Lowe took Marlow into the bathroom to shower. Dean said Mattie struck Marlow with the walking stick once more while the three were in the bathroom. Dean said he made his escape out the backdoor as Lowe and Mattie were preoccupied with Marlow in the bathroom.
Once escaping, he said he went to several of the neighboring houses, but no one was home. He stopped back by his old boss’s home, but said his boss said he couldn’t understand what Dean was saying.
Dean said he eventually made his way to his mother’s house, where he also lived. He said he instructed his mother to go to Lowe’s home and retrieve Marlow, and also asked her to call the cops. Dean said he then passed out in the floor and felt like he had been drugged.
In earlier testimony in the trial Lt. Tony Dingess with Kentucky State Police testified he had found Dean that night at his mother's house lying in the floor and Dean appeared to be intoxicated.
When Dean was cross examined by the defense attorneys as to why he didn’t stop at any of the houses between those he had previously stopped at and his mother’s home, Dean stated you don’t knock on a stranger’s door in Mud Creek.
The defense team also questioned how much Dean had drank that day and asked if he had an alcohol problem. Dean admitted at that time, he did.
They also raised the question that if Dean was scared for his life when he escaped, why would he send his mother there. He said he didn’t know what else to do in response. Dean said he wished he would have done more to help Marlow.
The prosecution then called Shawn Bagwell to the witness stand.
Bagwell said on July 23, 2017 he visited Lowe and Mattie’s home to get a transmission for a Monte Carlo that Bagwell had owned. Lowe had worked on Bagwell’s vehicles in the past.
Bagwell testified he knocked on the home’s door twice and that no one answered. He then made his way down the right side of the home and stood at an angle where he could see around the right side of the home, but said he was not seen.
Bagwell said he saw Mattie bent over in front of him with the crown of her head visible. There was blood in her hair and she was crying, according to Bagwell. Although Bagwell said he couldn’t see Lowe, he said he could hear Lowe saying something about someone owing him money.
Bagwell also said he could see Marlow’s body laying in the gravel road next to where Mattie was standing bent over. From his angle, Bagwell saw Marlow’s body from her feet first, she was laying on her side, with her head turned the opposite direction from where he was standing.
Bagwell then got back into his truck and left, saying he didn’t want to get involved. He noticed Lowe’s uncle, Charles Lowe, and stopped to talk to him. He told Charles Lowe what had happened and assumed Charles would could call the police.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronnie Bowling called Sally Edwards Kirkland via telephone as his next witness. Kirkland worked for the Kentucky State Police (KSP) Central Crime Lab during the time of the incident as a forensic lab supervisor.
Kirkland testified she was able to determine that blood was found on numerous items found in Lowe’s home at the time of the incident. Those items included several articles of clothing and a Jim Beam bottle.
Kirkland also examined swabs taken from Lowe and Mattie’s hands, the kitchen floor, and from Marlow’s ankle, among other items.
The prosecution then called Forensic Biologist Megan May with the KSP Central Crime Lab to the stand. May was tasked with analyzing DNA on the evidence after Kirkland’s test for biological fluids.
May testified Marlow’s DNA was found on the wooden walking stick, from the lower pant leg of Lowe’s shorts, the front pocket of Dean’s pant leg, from the swabs taken from Lowe’s hands, the front right pant leg of a pair of pants found in one of the home’s closets and the Jim Beam bottle.
Walter Pennington III, a paramedic with the Whitey County EMS, was next on the witness stand. Pennington responded to the scene of the crime when it was called in. He said there were two patients at the crime scene. One of the patients was Marlow, he never specified who the other was.
Pennington testified he did not attempt to resuscitate Marlow because she was cool to the touch, had swelling in her face, wounds that had ceased bleeding and there was another patient on the scene.
Dr. Meredith Frame was then called by the Commonwealth. Frame has worked for the Kentucky Medical Examiner’s Office since 2013 and performed Marlow’s autopsy.
Frame then described Marlow’s body and the steps she took to help determine a cause of death. Ultimately, Dr. Frame determined Marlow’s cause of death to be blunt force trauma, along with the accumulation of multiple lacerations and injuries to the head, trunk and extremities of Marlow’s body.
Injuries on Marlow’s hands were consistent with what police and the general public would refer to as “defensive wounds,” she said.
Frame also found Xanax, THC, and a byproduct of Suboxone in Marlow’s system during her autopsy.
A small fragment was found that she agreed was consistent with wood.
The Commonwealth then rested, allowing for defense attorney, Michael Brophy, to call his client, Chris Lowe to the witness stand.
After being sworn in, Lowe testified on the day before the incident, Dean had been at his residence alone. Lowe said Dean took two beers, borrowed $20, and left.
Lowe said Dean came back with two 12-packs of beer and Marlow.
Lowe said he and Dean weren’t as close as Dean made it out to be during his testimony. He said they work together, but rarely party together because Dean “can’t handle his liquor.”
Lowe said he was happy to have Dean over that night, though, because Dean had brought more beer with him. He said they drank all of the beer left in his refrigerator, half a gallon of vodka, the two 12-packs and he split a Xanax with Mattie. He said Dean left and came back with more whiskey.
Lowe said he had to wrestle the whiskey away from Dean and that a couple of glasses were broken in the kitchen as a result of their skirmish. After everyone had calmed down and were winding down for the night, Lowe said Dean attempted to strip naked and lay in bed with him and Mattie. Lowe said he made Dean re-dress and go lay down somewhere else.
The next day, the day of the incident, Lowe said he woke up and Dean and Marlow were in his kitchen. The couple then left and Lowe said he began mowing his lawn. He ran out of gas and said he and Mattie were getting ready to leave to get more gas and to get more alcohol.
However, he said Dean stopped back by his house and he told Dean he didn’t want to party that night because he had to work the next morning.
Lowe and Mattie then went to get more gas for Lowe’s mower and had gotten more alcohol in Williamsburg.
When the couple returned home and entered the house, he said Dean and Marlow came running from the back bedroom of his house. He said neither Dean nor Marlow’s vehicle were in his driveway at that time so he was surprised to see them there.
Lowe testified Mattie had gone into the master bedroom to put away the change from their earlier transactions. He said she kept his wallet and money because he worked at the junkyard and was afraid of losing it.
He said Mattie noticed his wallet was missing from the bedroom — they hadn’t taken it with them to get gas an alcohol, as Lowe was just wearing a pair of polyester athletic shorts.
Lowe said after noticing the wallet was missing Mattie and Marlow began shouting at each other and a lot of commotion was going on throughout the house. He said he grabbed his shotgun from his bedroom and fired two shots out the backdoor of his home to halt the commotion.
Lowe said on the second shot, a shell casing had jammed the gun.
Upon further questioning about specifics of July 23, 2017, Lowe said he was extremely intoxicated that night and his memory was like a dotted line. He could remember a little bit, but there were a lot of gaps in time he couldn’t remember.
He said he remembers going outside and not seeing any vehicles, other than his, in his drive way. He remembers Mattie crying and Marlow’s body laying in the grass. He said he assumed Marlow wasn’t breathing and he attempted to perform CPR on her.
He said he then blacked out and he came to again once he was handcuffed to a rocking chair in his home.
Lowe said he remembers about three or four officers in his home that night and he could hear Dean’s mother from outside his home talking to police.
During Bowling’s cross examination, Lowe testified neither Dean or Marlow attempted to attack him or Mattie when they came running from his bedroom.
During his altercation with Dean the night before, Lowe said he and Dean did not strike each other and nobody had bled in the kitchen as result of that incident.
Bowling then began writing in black marker on a white board. After every following question he asked Lowe, Bowling wrote in black marker the topic of his question, and in red marker next to each topic, he wrote Lowe’s answers, which were mostly that he didn’t recall or he didn’t know.
Bowling showed Lowe his gun and asked about a red spot on it. Lowe said he couldn’t recall how the red spot came to be on the gun. He also couldn’t recall how he ended up with Marlow’s blood on him and assumed he got it while attempting to give her CPR.
Bowling then pointed out the swelling on Lowe’s right hand in a photo taken by KSP Lt. Dingess the night of the incident.
He asked Lowe how the walking stick Lowe had stated was outside ended up in his bathroom with Marlow’s blood on it. Lowe said he couldn’t recall, Bowling wrote in red on the white board.
Lowe also had no explanation for Marlow’s DNA on the bourbon bottle found outside the home.
Bowling commented that Lowe seemed to remember a lot about that night, except for how Marlow died. He also pointed to the fact that with his questions, Lowe was not denying anything but simply saying he didn’t recall.
After Lowe left the witness stand, Brophy called no other witnesses. Cota Hudson, Mattie’s attorney, didn’t call any witnesses.
Jurors were then sent home and instructed to be back Friday morning.