Phoenix shooting evidence includes phones in toilet, blood on car mats, cellular data

Apr 18, 2022, 3:27 PM | Updated: 3:32 pm
Nicole Montalbano and Nicholas Cowan (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Phoenix Police Departmen...
Nicole Montalbano and Nicholas Cowan (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Phoenix Police Department Photos)
(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Phoenix Police Department Photos)

PHOENIX – Investigators used phone records to help identify a woman they say helped Nicholas Cowan evade authorities after he allegedly shot a Phoenix police officer last week, according to court documents.

Nicole Rose Montalbano, 34, was taken into custody Saturday after a search warrant was served at her residence in Prescott Valley, where investigators found two cellphones in the toilet and blood on floor mats from her vehicle that were in the trash, according to the police probable cause statement for her arrest.

Investigators found the phones by calling Montalbano’s number and hearing it ring from the toilet tank.

The search also uncovered Cowan’s ID cards and the receipt and packaging for a prepaid cellphone.

Montalbano, referred to in the arrest documents as a girlfriend of Cowan, was booked into a Phoenix jail on counts of hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence.

She is being held without bail because she was on felony release, according to court records. Montalbano has court procedures scheduled for April 22, 25 and 26.

Cowan hasn’t been booked yet because he was hospitalized after his arrest Sunday night following an hourslong standoff at a Scottsdale rental property. But the probable cause statement for Montalbano’s arrest contains details about Cowan’s activity after he allegedly shot at two police officers who’d responded to a domestic violence call Thursday morning outside a gas station at Cave Creek and Beardsley roads.

One of the officers was wounded, prompting a manhunt that lasted around 80 hours. She is recovering in a hospital. Cowan was hit by return fire.

The probable cause statement indicates that somebody picked Cowan up in a pickup truck after he fled the scene of the shooting and abandoned his car, a light blue Prius that police found near Third Avenue and Greenway Road.

The person in the truck gave Cowan a prepaid cellphone and took him to a home near 59th Avenue and Indian School Road in Phoenix. A person at that location treated Cowan’s wounds.

Phone records showed multiple calls after the shooting between Montalbano’s phone and the phone the pickup driver gave Cowan. Investigators also used location data records for Montalbano’s phone to determine that she traveled between her home and the residence where Cowan was taken to be treated.

She arrived at the Phoenix location at 4:51 p.m. Thursday and left at 5:43 p.m., heading back to Prescott Valley, according to the phone data.

A tactical team served the search warrant at her home around 3 a.m. Saturday.

When questioned, Montalbano denied having phone contact with Cowan and driving to Phoenix.

The investigation into the case is ongoing, as police continue searching for others who helped Cowan.

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Phoenix shooting evidence includes phones in toilet, blood on car mats, cellular data