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Murder charge tossed after suspect takes plea deal

Gary O’Bryant remains in the Monroe County Jail ahead of a sentencing hearing on July 18.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Bloomington man accused in the 2022 “execution-style” murder of another man will have all but one charge dropped, including murder, after a judge accepted a plea deal last week.

Gary O’Bryant agreed to plead guilty but mentally ill to a level 4 felony meth possession charge and to being a habitual offender due to several prior felony convictions.

O’Bryant faced other charges, including murder, obstruction of justice, maintaining a common nuisance (both level 6 felonies), dealing in meth (a level 5 felony), and failing to report a dead body (a class A misdemeanor).

O’Bryant remains in the Monroe County Jail until a sentencing hearing scheduled for July 18.

Under Indiana Sentencing Guidelines, a finding or plea of guilty but mentally ill does not change the state recommendation for sentencing.

Level 4 felonies carry a maximum sentence of 12 years, with an advisory sentence of six years.

A judge may sentence a habitual offender convicted of a level 4 felony to an extra six to 20 years.

According to court records, O’Bryant was convicted in a 2009 burglary in Marshall County, a 2014 intimidation in St. Joseph County, and a 2019 theft in Elkhart County.

According to court documents, at 1:15 a.m. on Feb. 8, 2022, someone who wished to remain anonymous contacted Bloomington police to report a possible shooting at a home on Graham Drive.

At the time, officers reported checking the area and did not find anything suspicious.

A few hours later, detectives talked to two people who claimed to know about the shooting, according to a BPD press release at the time.

Soon after, police obtained a search warrant for one of the homes on Graham Drive and located a man, later identified as O’Bryant, inside the home, napping on the couch.

When police searched the home, they reportedly found evidence that indicated someone was injured.

Locked in a bedroom, police knocked down a door and found the dead body of Caleb Cowden wrapped in several blankets bound with rope.

An autopsy revealed Cowden had been shot in the head.

According to court documents, three witnesses told detectives that they were at the home during a meth deal when they heard a gunshot.

They claimed O’Bryant then came out of the room and shouted, “I told you I was going to kill that (expletive).”

When questioned by police, O’Bryant claimed he had no knowledge of the shooting but admitted to selling drugs from the apartment.

Police reported that O’Bryant had meth and other drug paraphernalia on him when he was arrested.

Police also reportedly found a 9mm gun magazine loaded with bullets and two trash bags filled with clothes covered in blood.

“It was abundantly obvious and clear that someone attempted to clean up the crime scene because not only had the dead body been moved from where the witnesses had originally seen it within the apartment the previous night, the majority of the blood that was observed pooling beneath the body had also been cleaned up,” a detective wrote in court documents.

The witnesses also told detectives that O’Bryant was walking towards Rockport Road that night after the shooting.

During a later search at the bus stop on Graham Drive and Rockport Road, police allegedly found a 9mm gun magazine similar to the one found at the apartment.

They also reported finding a cell phone that was ringing. When an officer answered the phone, a woman on the other end reportedly asked for “Gary O.”

Police also found two guns in the woods by the bus stop.