Cowart Murder Trial: Prosecutors Say Text Messages Show Premeditation

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Prosecutors say the text messages between Dustin Cowart and his ex-wife illustrate a calculated and planned murder of the ex-wife’s new fiancé.

Case Background 

Dustin Leigh Cowart was arrested and charged with the murder of Ray “Buddy” Beasley on October 27, 2020 after the two arranged to meet up at the intersection of Rocky Ford Road and Mixon Road. Authorities contend that Cowart was sending harassing communications to Beasley’s fiancé, Kacie Mallard, who is the ex-wife of Dustin Cowart. Cowart and Beasley met in person to sort out the issue that night. Cowart has stated from the beginning that it was self defense. The state contends it was premeditated murder. More on the case background here.


On Tuesday, jurors heard opening statements from attorneys and listened to testimony from responding deputies, the medical examiner from the GBI, and a detective from the Statesboro Police Department, as well as a recount of events from two witnesses and the fiancé of the late Buddy Beasley. 

Three of the state’s witnesses provided inconsistent testimony at times, prompting the jury to be excused from the courtroom so the defense could play body camera footage to refresh the memory of the witnesses on the stand.

The text messages, however, appeared to be what was the crux of the state’s case thus far, as they contained threatened statements made by Cowart in the days leading up to the shooting. 

Deputies and Investigators from the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office
BCSO Sergeant Jason Borne

Sergeant Jason Borne of the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office testified first, explaining that he was dispatched by 911 and arrived ten to fifteen minutes after the call came in. He said there was a crowd of people, upwards of twenty people, who were growing angry. Members of the Mallard/Beasley family told him they were going to get their firearms and look for the subject if deputies did not. He testified that his main concern was securing the scene as well as crowd control because as the crowd grew angrier, he was concerned about his own safety and that of the others arriving on scene. 

BCSO Investigator William Sims

Investigator William Sims of the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office testified about his initial interviews on scene and his assistance in collecting evidence with other investigators back in October 2020. He was responsible for interviewing Brad Miller, his wife, Dana, and their son. 

During questioning by the prosecution, Sims testified that he saw no soot or stippling and no signs of a struggle near the car door. The .40 caliber Glock used in the incident, Sims said, would eject shells to the right side of where the gun was fired. Sims said the fact that both shells were outside of the truck – one on the ground and one on the hood of the car – would indicate that the gun was outside of the vehicle when it was fired. Sims contended that there was no gunpowder burns on Beasley’s skin and he would have had to be a few feet away from Cowart.

On cross examination, defense attorney Matt Hube challenged Sims’ training on soot, stippling, and firearms ballistics and raised doubt about whether or not investigators could be certain those shell casings were outside of the vehicle or if they were placed there before law enforcement arrived. He also pressed Sims on whether or not clothing could minimize or eliminate stippling, soot, and gunpowder burns and if he was aware of testing available to determine the presence of those things not visible to the naked eye. Sims testified he was not. 

Hube also attacked the investigation in questioning, asking why BCSO never conducted follow-up interviews with the Millers after the night of the shooting. Hube probed why BCSO never asked Miller to recreate the scene he observed, asked if investigators were certain about the locations of anything, and again challenged Sims’ propositions on the trajectory of the shell casings. 

Hube: “All you know is where they were found.”
Sims: “In my opinion. And how they got there.”
Hube: “But you really don’t know how it got there. Your opinion is based on your speculation:
Sims: “If that’s what you’re saying.”
Hube: “I am because it is.”
Judge Muldrew then ordered the jury to strike Hube’s last statement.

Detective Dustin Cross from the Statesboro Police Department testified briefly on his assistance in downloading the cell phone data from the phones of Cowart and Beasley in the days after the shooting. 


Brad Miller, who is the brother-in-law to Cowart’s ex-wife, Kacie Mallard, and his minor son, drove Beasley to meet Cowart on the night of October 27. Miller and Beasley were both friends and co-workers. 

Miller recounted Tuesday that Beasley called him around 9:00 p.m. on October 27 and wanted Miller to drive him to go meet Cowart. Miller said ‘no,’ because he had to get to work early the next day and was already in bed. Not long after, Beasley showed up and pressured Miller to drive him, saying “If it was you, I would go with you.” Miller also said Beasley had been drinking, but was not drinking with him, and attested that he drove Beasley’s truck to the scene, which had dozens of beer cans in the back of it. Miller said Beasley, however, was not drunk and was not acting ‘out of sorts.’

Miller testified that he initially drove Beasley to Mixon Road and Mallard Pond Road, but after waiting there ‘twenty to thirty minutes,’ Cowart was a no-show. He said Beasley and Cowart were texting back and forth the whole time and finally Cowart agreed to meet Beasley further down the road at Mixon Road and Rocky Ford Road. Both trucks arrived at roughly the same time and Cowart asked Beasley upon arrival, “Do you wanna talk to me?”

Miller said he crossed Mixon Road and turned around on the shoulder, approximately 100-150 feet away from the two men who talked and argued for fifteen to twenty minutes. He said there was security lighting that allowed him to see some of the interaction and hear bits and pieces as well. 

During questioning by the state, Miller said he saw Beasley reach for the truck, a gun flashed, and he never saw Beasley put his hands on the truck or on Beasley. He said he watched Cowart come around with a gun and Miller saw the gun outside the truck on the first shot. Beasley backed up four to five feet and then Cowart shot him again, causing Beasley to fall to the ground. 

ADA Edwards asked how close to the truck Beasley got before being shot, to which Miller replied ‘about a foot’ and his hands were on the window sill. He said he saw Cowart stand over Beasley before Cowart went to the back of his truck and put the tailgate down. Miller then called 911 and then his wife, who is a nurse.  

Somebody’s Going to Get Hurt 

During cross examination by defense attorney Matt Hube, Miller admitted that he told Beasley a number of times that meeting up ‘was not a good idea.’ Miller told BCSO Investigator William Sims that the two went to talk, to which Sims replied, “We know what that means,” and Miller said, “Yes.” Hube asked Miller what that meant, and he replied, “That somebody’s going to get hurt.”

He also said his wife had told Beasley the day before about the text messages from Cowart to Mallard because Mallard had been keeping them from Beasley. She was worried Beasley would get mad because “everyone knows Beasley had a temper and he would do something about it.” Miller said Beasley was upset about the messages all day.

Miller also testified during cross examination that he attempted to go home at one point and Beasley told him to “turn the G-d damn truck around.”

Hube then asked Miller more about the roadside argument between Cowart and Beasley. Hube asked Miller if he recalled saying just when he believed the confrontation was over, Cowart said something that ‘pissed Beasley off’ and Beasley went toward the truck, prompting Cowart to lean back in the truck. Miller said he did not recall making those statements, and reiterated that Cowart brought the gun around forward.

The jury was excused so Hube could play body camera footage of Miller telling Deputy Doug Harrell that he saw Beasley reach into the truck. When the jury returned, Hube again asked Miller if he recalled the statement about reaching into the truck and Miller again said ‘no.’  After further pressing about the video he just watched, Miller admitted he saw Beasley reach into the truck and he “don’t know if he was trying to grab it or what….He did reach in there. I guess to get the gun.”

Miller’s son, who is now seventeen, testified Tuesday that unlike his father, he couldn’t see much from the truck and he could hear very little of what was said between Cowart and Beasley. He said the lighting made it difficult to see and that he could not see what was going on inside the truck, but he did see a gun fire outside of the truck.

On cross examination, however, the younger Miller did admit that he told Investigator Sims on the night of the incident that he heard Cowart say to Beasley, “Why are you pointing your finger at me?” and admitted that he never told investigators that he saw a gun outside of the truck. 

Text Messages from Cowart to His Ex-Wife Before the Shooting

Assistant District Attorney Ben Edwards read many of the text messages in his opening statement Tuesday morning but went deeper into what was referred to as a barrage of text messages in the days leading up to the shooting when Kacie Mallard took the stand.

She testified that she received messages she described as ‘harassing’ off and on for some time, as the two share a child and certain things would be more contentious than others. She had not informed Beasley, she said, of what was happening until the day before the incident. Beasley, she said, had asked her for Cowart’s phone number but she would not provide it to him. On the night of the shooting, Beasley contacted Cowart via Facebook and told him to stop harassing Kacie and to just let her be unless it has something to do with their daughter.

When Mallard took the stand Tuesday, she said that Cowart was upset about a Halloween costume purchase and that Beasley would be taking Cowart and Mallard’s daughter to gymnastics. She said Cowart had threatened to show up to the gymnastics studio and so she had her mother take her daughter instead.

Edwards then went through the text messages from Cowart to Mallard from the day before. Among the messages:

“Just know if a mother f***er dies and gets shot, it’s because of you.”
“It’ll happen one day because of you and your mouth. It might be 10 years from now, but it’s coming
“All it takes is a bad day.”
“I’m almost in f***ing kill mode.”
“I’m dead ass serious about the dirt road.”

Mallard replied to at least one message and said there would be consequences, to which Cowart replied, “Not if it’s one on one. No one to tell the tale. It doesn’t matter. You will see how serious I am soon.”

Mallard told Cowart to leave her alone, to which Cowart said, “Ok. You think I’m playin’. Just sit and wait then. Watch….Please send your guy…None of these are threats whatsoever. There’s my disclaimer for legal purposes.”

The defense contends that the messages were wrong, but were empty threats, that Cowart was all talk and no bite, that he only wanted Mallard to hurt as badly as he hurt. Court recessed Tuesday afternoon before cross examination of Mallard with plans to reconvene Wednesday morning. The trial is expected to last the remainder of the week.

Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and co-creator of of the Peabody Award-nominated podcast 'Prison Town.'

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