‘Dead man walking:’ Family, military members describe McDowell’s personality change after deployment

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. — The defense has now called 31 total witnesses for testimony as day five of Patrick McDowell’s penalty phase came to a close Monday.


McDowell’s fellow military members spoke about the trauma he endured after serving overseas, including in Iraq. They described a far different person from the one who sat before them who admitted to shooting and killing a Nassau County deputy in 2021.

“I knew if he was capable of doing that, that there was darkness in him and he needed help,” Susan Cagle, McDowell’s aunt, told jurors. She described him as a happy child who was close with family and she said there was a shift after he returned from his second deployment.

McDowell served with the Marines as a radio operator and then went back a second time with a private military contractor. Cagle recalled one instance McDowell went running all day and stopped at her Jacksonville Beach home.

“He had been running and running that day. He told me he had been running from his demons that day.”

Family members said he was dating a girl who seemed to bring the start of his downhill spiral including drug abuse.

The state took an opportunity during cross-examination to point out the family support McDowell had upon returning from overseas. He also attended a veterans treatment program, which the defense argued ended with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Military members described a man they could never imagine would murder a deputy. Joshua Moyers was gunned down during a traffic stop in Sept. 2021. McDowell pulled the trigger while he was high on meth and had a warrant out for his arrest for failing to appear on drug charges.

“His leadership was impeccable...when you left the room, you left with a solution. He was very approachable,” Jerry Jones, a fellow military member, said. “Outstanding marine. Reliable. If I had a question about something – he’d be the one I’d ask,” Jacob Woodard said. He testified in Yulee Monday after flying in from Australia and declined the option to do testimony over Zoom.

Witnesses called by the defense said McDowell had a personality change and even looked different.

[DOWNLOAD: Free Action News Jax app for alerts as news breaks]

“She thought he looked like a dead man walking. She said I don’t think I’ll ever see Patrick alive again,” Cagle said about a discussion she had with her mother concerning McDowell. He had also stolen money from his grandparents which the family said was out of character.

Since serving time in prison, the family said he found his faith and partakes in bible studies with them over the phone.

“He has a peace. He has a knowledge. He is very intelligent and reads the bible on a daily basis,” his Great Aunt Karen Wren said. Their hope is that the jury will recommend life in prison so he can help inmates in jail find hope in their own faith.

Ultimately the jury will recommend either life in prison or a death sentence. Day 6 starts Tuesday with expert testimony. Closing arguments could begin Thursday after a charge conference Wednesday afternoon according to a discussion between the judge and attorneys at the end of the day. Action News Jax will have a crew in the courtroom and bring you the very latest.

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.

Comments on this article