Rodney Cowan died two days after being involved in an altercation at the Guntersville American Legion Post.
Today, his daughter, Jennifer Lopes, is waiting for the case to go to trial in hopes of getting justice for her father.
Marshall County District Attorney Everette Johnson said Cowan was in a fight with Andrew Norwood inside the American Legion Post on July 10.
A call was made to 911 reporting an injured person, and based on current policy, an ambulance was dispatched followed by a Guntersville Police officer.
Based on witness reports and statements made by doctors treating Cowan, officers continued their investigation, ultimately charging Norwood with aggravated assault.
Cowan died two days later on July 12 in Huntsville Hospital, and Johnson’s office upgraded the charges against Norwood to murder. He was arrested July 17 on the murder charge and released later that day after posting a $100,000 bond.
“The murder charge came about because we have a man with an intentional injury that resulted in his death,“ Johnson said.
“Guntersville Fire and Rescue and a police officer arrived at the scene pretty quickly. At this point in time, three weeks into our investigation, what we have is a fight, intentional injury and death.”
Johnson said the investigation into exactly what precipitated the fight remains under investigation. The next step, he said, is to take the case before a grand jury in October.
“October is our next first opportunity to impanel a grand jury,” he said. “It will all depend on if the Supreme Court will allow us to impanel a jury due to the pandemic and related restrictions.”
Lopes maintains her father was an innocent victim. Norwood was asked to leave the establishment, she said. When he didn’t, Lopes said Cowan “took up” for the bartender and tried to get Norwood to leave.
“What we know is there was a verbal altercation, and from what we understand from witnesses, the attacker was asked to leave and refused,” Lopes said. “My dad was basically taking up for the bartender. The guy attacked my dad. My dad never hit him.
“To see this incident characterized as a bar fight is sad to me.”
Lopes said she’s not convinced the initial investigation was handled properly by Guntersville Police. Attempts to reach Guntersville Police Chief Jim Peterson by The Reporter were unsuccessful.
But since Norwood was charged with murder, Lopes said the police have been more forthcoming.
“I was told the initial call was made to 911 that dad had fallen,” Lopes said. “What hurts me is that my dad was a member of the American Legion and he had served them faithfully. In his time of need, they lied to the police. They said it was a fall. It wasn’t. It was an attack and a crime.”
Johnson said he has found no fault with the investigation.
“So far appearances are that the investigation is perfectly sufficient,” Johnson said. “It resulted with us being comfortable enough to bring a murder charge.”
“We are still investigating. There are lots of leads yet to chase down. I want these officers and investigators to be able to do their job without interference.
“There is no hint of a coverup or anything inappropriate that I have seen.”