Victim’s family supports suspect
Urge no charges in fatal shooting
Glenwood Springs resident Audrey Lowndes was so excited after attending a Jehovah’s Witnesses service on April 14 that she and boyfriend James “McCabe” Mallin called her family in Cortez to talk about the bibles they received and the kindness of others at the service.
Just hours later, Lowndes was in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the back of her head, and Mallin, 28, was being held in the Garfield County Jail on suspicion of attempted murder. And by April 16, authorities said she had died.
Now Mallin’s out of jail, however. Investigators are reconsidering whether there’s any criminal case to be made against him after he told them he found her with his rifle and it went off as he tried to pull it away from her. And both Audrey’s family and Mallin himself are voicing hope that authorities bring no charges against him in the matter.
“I really hope that they see the truth, that this was just a tragic accident,” Mallin, speaking at times in a choking voice, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. He said he could never have been violent toward Audrey — “she’s my heart and soul.”
Audrey’s family voiced their support for Mallin in an online obituary for her, posted at http://www.obitsforlife.com.
“From the very first we were informed of the incident, we could not believe McCabe to be capable of such a crime, and we still hold firmly to that belief. Audrey never gave us any indication of him being cruel; in fact, he was quite the opposite. We believe this to be, instead, a very tragic accident,” the family said.
In an interview, Audrey’s younger brother, Tasker Lowndes, who wrote the obituary, said, “I just don’t think any charges are necessary against him. I just think the whole thing was the result of an unfortunate series of events.”
He added, “I think he’s very wounded at this point, to experience such an accident, because he loved her as dearly as he was capable of loving. Just to witness something like that, I can’t imagine what it must have been like.”
A CHALLENGED LIFE
Audrey’s death brought to an end the 40-year-old life of a woman whom both her brother and boyfriend describe as having faced considerable challenges that she nevertheless often managed to rise above. Mistreatment by her late father while growing up left her somewhat mentally disturbed, Lowndes said.
“When she would go to alcohol or whatever to escape, it would pretty much all come out,” he said.
According to police, Audrey, Mallin, Mallin’s father and the couple’s roommate all had been drinking at the Glenwood Springs trailer where the couple lived before her death there.
Despite the problems she faced in her life, “She was still very sweet, just always wanting to help people. She was always taking people in because she couldn’t bear seeing people suffering,” Lowndes said.
Said Mallin, “She had a really rough past. Everyone has their demons, I guess. Sometimes she’d be extremely depressed, sometimes she’d be pretty happy.”
But Mallin, who was engaged to marry Audrey although they hadn’t yet picked a date, added, “She was the kindest person, the most loving person I think I’ve ever met in my life. She would give you the last nickel out of her pocket regardless of if you needed it or not.”
The Lowndes family is from Maryland. Audrey, who her brother said had been married once long ago and had no children, was the first to move to Colorado. She was followed by a sister now living in Leadville, and her brother and mother, who live in Cortez.
Audrey was the athlete in the family, and took to snowboarding, hiking and other mountain activities. She lived in various locations in the Roaring Fork Valley, working in waitressing, bartending and managerial jobs, Lowndes said. Mallin, an accomplished skier, said they met almost five years ago.
“We loved everything outdoors,” he said.
Lowndes said Audrey was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness but never made the decision to become one. On April 14 she decided to go to an annual service memorializing the death of Jesus, and Mallin agreed to accompany her.
Lowndes said the experience was both exciting and exhausting for her.
“It took so much out of her, the emotions involved, because she always thought she wasn’t a worthy person. She told us everybody was so kind to her she was just overwhelmed,” Lowndes said.
FROM ECSTATIC TO ANGRY
Said Mallin, “She was ecstatic, very, very, very happy about it, and so was I. I was happy to join her.”
But he said she then displayed the kind of mood swing he’d seen before.
“She was happier than I’d ever seen her and then all of the sudden she jumped off and was keeping to herself and was angry,” he said.
Audrey went into the couple’s bedroom, and eventually Mallin went to check on her.
“I was concerned. She had pretty much barricaded herself in the room and wasn’t speaking to anyone and she was like yelling at herself. I heard her in the back room yelling at herself and that’s why I went to see what was going on,” he said.
He said he feared she would use the gun against herself.
“I don’t know what was going on in her mind,” he said. “Anyone who was in the mood that she was in and inebriated should never have a gun.”
Mallin has told police she was sitting in a chair and facing away from him with the rifle in her hands when he grabbed the rifle butt to try to pull it from her.
Said Tasker Lowndes, “What I have known of McCabe, he was just a very supportive person to my sister and was always trying to do his best to calm her whenever she was upset or anything.
“My sister, she never indicated at any time that he had ever been physically abusive or anything, which she would have indicated because it has happened in the past with other people.”
“… I think he was pretty much the nicest boyfriend she’d ever had,” Lowndes said.
‘HE DID WHAT HE
THOUGHT WAS ... RIGHT’
Lowndes thinks Mallin worried for her “because she would get dark after she had had a drink. Not to the point of killing herself. She had had thoughts before, but it was always like more just thinking about the fact that her life didn’t go in the direction she had hoped. … So I can totally picture this happening, she’s sitting there, holding the gun and thinking about her life or whatever.”
Lowndes doesn’t think she would have hurt herself, but can imagine her having become combative when Mallin tried to take the gun from her, “and that’s where the accident would have taken place.”
Mallin’s roommate told police he heard the couple arguing for about 15 minutes before the shooting.
Lowndes said that, knowing that his sister was the type who might have become combative, he would have tried to talk with her very calmly. “But (Mallin) doesn’t know that, so he did what he thought was the right thing to do.”
Mallin was released from jail Tuesday after 9th Judicial District Attorney Sherry Caloia said she lacked sufficient evidence for now to proceed with criminal charges. She’s waiting on a coroner’s ruling on the death, and on ballistics, toxicology, fingerprint and other testing to add to the witness statements and other evidence already received.
Mallin said he wished he’d been able to hold Audrey’s hand in the hospital rather than having been in jail, and appreciates having been released now. Glenwood Springs police Chief Terry Wilson said the arrest was made for valid reasons based on what investigators knew at the time. But the continuing investigation “has led us to the point that we are reconsidering with the DA’s office what the appropriate treatment of this case should be in the long term.”
Mallin said he’s going through one of the worst experiences of his life, and he has yet to give much thought to what the future now holds for him after the loss of Audrey under such circumstances.
“Honestly, right now everything’s so fresh I’m still just mourning and grieving, and I don’t know,” he said.