TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – Formal charges have been filed against Lafayette resident James Bixler, 25, for the murder of Rick Couch.
According to court documents, James Bixler beat Couch on the evening of Aug. 19 following an argument. Lafayette detectives state that Bixler punched Couch repeatedly. An autopsy revealed that Couch died from brain injuries caused by multiple blunt force trauma. Couch also had a fractured sternum and broken ribs, which investigators say could be from kicking or stomping.
Couch’s body was discovered on the morning of Aug. 20 by Kathleen Coughlin. Officers responded just after 9 a.m. Coughlin said she was with her boyfriend the night before, along with Couch, Bixler and a young child.
Coughlin claims to also have found Bixler asleep in a chair the morning she discovered Couch’s body. Also found at the residence were a bloody fireplace shovel and a bloody shirt, which matched Coughlin’s description of the shirt Bixler was wearing on Aug. 19. The young child was also at the residence. Coughlin also told detectives that drinking had been involved.
About two hours after officers arrived, officers say Bixler arrived at the scene, yelling loudly. He was accompanied by his girlfriend, the mother of the young child.
When speaking to officers on the scene, Bixler initially denied being seen by Coughlin, saying that he slept at his father’s house and that the child was left with his girlfriend.
Bixler’s father, Emmett Bixler, told police that Bixler had left on Tuesday afternoon and he didn’t see his son again until 11 a.m. Wednesday morning. A pair of jeans were found at Emmett Bixler’s house. Investigators say the jeans may have had blood on them.
A search of Bixler revealed blood on his chest and socks. He was then arrested. That evening, he admitted to lying during his earlier interview.
Bixler told detectives that he had a fight with Couch, saying Couch “snatched him up by his hair” after Bixler refused to watch videos with him. Bixler admitted to punching Couch several times. Bixler said he believed to have knocked Couch out. He told detectives that he cleaned some blood off of Couch and the floor.
Bixler did not directly claim to have used the fireplace shovel to beat Couch, but said that he probably did. Bixler was also not sure if he stomped or kicked Couch, but said that he probably did as well.
Bixler also claimed to have a broken hand.