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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

KS- Killing near river described

8-16-2006 Kansas: UPDATE 6-23-2009:

Topeka homeless advocate David Owen died in June as a result of asphyxiation after being bound, gagged and tied to a tree in a wooded area along the north bank of the Kansas River, authorities testified Tuesday.

Details surrounding Owen's death and events leading to it were recounted during a preliminary hearing in Shawnee County District Court for four people arrested in connection with his death.

All four defendants attended Tuesday's hearing, which adjourned in mid-afternoon and will resume at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 29.

Owen, 38, a registered sex offender who formed an organization known as Homeless Come Home, was known to visit homeless campsites near the Kansas River in an effort to get people to call family members and return home.

He was reported missing on June 24. At that time, his father, Darrell Owen, of Cimarron in southwest Kansas, stated that he last spoke to his son by telephone on June 16.

Several searches were conducted in late June before Owen's decomposing body was discovered July 2 by Topeka police using a cadaver dog in an area of tall weeds and saplings near the Kansas River.

Police on July 13 arrested four homeless people in connection with Owen's death: Carl L. Baker, 60; Charles L. Hollingsworth III, 18; Kim D. Sharp, 27; and John R. Cornell, 28.

Baker, a convicted rapist who absconded from parole from Shawnee County on April 25, was booked into the Shawnee County Jail in connection with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and arson.

Hollingsworth was booked in connection with first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and aggravated assault.

Sharp and Cornell both were booked in connection with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and arson.

Testimony Tuesday indicated Owen's death followed a heated confrontation in mid-June at a homeless campsite in North Topeka, near the Kansas River dike, where several people were staying.

Topeka police Detective Mike Barron, a lead investigator in the case, testified Owen could be aggressive in dealing with the homeless and rubbed some the wrong way by insisting they needed to start a new life.

Barron said Owen entered the campsite uninvited and got into a dispute with Hollingsworth and others that quickly escalated. After a rope was wrapped around Owen's arms and neck, Barron said, Hollingsworth and Baker walked Owen south from the campsite toward the Kansas River dike.

Barron said when Owen sat down pleading to be let go, he was dragged by his feet down a rocky incline on the south side of the dike, then to a wooded area near a railroad bridge.

With a rope around Owen's arms and neck and a rag in his mouth to keep him quiet, Barron said, Hollingsworth tied him to a tree with his feet in the air.

Hollingsworth told Owen that he could suffocate, but also could free himself by loosening part of the rope, Barron said.

Hollingsworth and Baker left Owen in that position, and Hollingsworth checked on him three times, Barron said.

"The fourth time, he found him blue," Barron said. "He was dead."

Barron said Owen was tied to the tree for at least 21/2 hours.

After Owen was found dead, Barron said, his shirt, shoes, glasses, cell phone and backpack were burned at the campsite. His body was dragged from the tree to an area near the river, where it was found.

Dr. Donald Pojman, Shawnee County deputy coroner, testified that he ruled Owen's death a homicide based on autopsy findings and police reports. He said information from the autopsy and police reports indicated an asphyxiant death.

Also testifying was Ron Greene, 35, who said he entered the campsite one evening in June searching for a male acquaintance to obtain sleeping pills. Greene, who testified he was living at the Topeka Rescue Mission at the time, said the man wasn't there, but four other people were at the campsite, in addition to Owen. He identified the four as the defendants.

When he arrived at the campsite, Greene said, Owen and Hollingsworth were having a loud dispute. Sharp had Owen's cell phone and refused to give it back to him so he wouldn't be able to call the police, as he threatened to do, Greene said.

Before he left, Greene said, he saw Hollingsworth take Owen to a wooded area near the campsite, grabbing a hatchet from a tree on the way. He said he didn't see or hear anything else before he left about 20 minutes later.

Greene said he contacted police several weeks later after learning Owen had been killed.

Cross-examination of Barron by Baker's, Hollingsworth's and Sharp's attorneys will continue when the preliminary hearing resumes.

Several of Owen's family members attended the hearing but declined comment. ..more.. by Phil Anderson


Justice for David Owen

On Friday, a jury convicted Charles Hollingsworth III of murdering David Owen, a self-appointed lobbyist for the homeless. Juries had previously returned guilty verdicts for Carl “Outlaw” Baker and Kim “Baby Girl” Sharp. A fourth defendant, “Big” John Cornell, cut a deal to turn state's witness.

I profiled Owen, a convicted sex offender (for possession of child pornography) who annoyed lawmakers in the Kansas statehouse and destroyed homeless camps near the Kansas River, in March 2006. Three months later, Owen disappeared. His body was eventually found near the Kansas River.

In February, I chronicled Owen's grisly murder – Hollingsworth had strung Owen's feet in the air, looped the rope around a tree and then cinched it around Owen's neck — if his feet dropped, the rope would strangle him.

I had written letters to Hollingsworth and the others shortly after his arrest. I told them that I wanted to know more about their lives. On September 22, Hollingsworth wrote this confession letter.

"I had to kill a man to realize that the lifestyle I was living wasn't getting me anywhere," he wrote. "I had to kill a man just to realize that the path my father was trying lead me to was actually what I needed to do and was ... the best move for me. I say I had to kill a man because of killing a man I am guilty of, but of 1st degree murder, I am not guilty of, more like reckless second/voluntary manslaughter!!"

Last week, a jury disagreed. The jury found him guilty of kidnapping and first-degree murder. ..more.. by Justin Kendall, The Plog


Kansas Supreme Court upholds conviction of woman involved in the murder of lobbyist

6-23-2009 Kansas:

The Kansas Capitol hasn't been the same without self-appointed homeless lobbyist and registered sex offender David Owen.

Three years ago, I profiled Owen in the midst of lawmakers' sex-offender hysteria while Owen -- convicted of possessing child pornography in 1998 -- was walking the halls, which were often filled with children.

Owen wanted strict penalties for sex offenders, but his mission was to send every homeless person home. If that meant destroying homeless camps to make sure homeless people weren't feeling comfortable, then he'd trash the camps. This didn't endear him to the people who lived there.

And in June 2006, he barged in to the wrong camp. In my story, Owen claimed that his father had bought him a burial plot in case a homeless person killed him.

Four months after profiling him, I was writing about his death.

Then, the next year, I was writing about the people who killed him: four homeless people. They were all convicted and sentenced.

One of them, Kimberly Danielle Sharp, was an on-again, off-again meth addict. She was also the divorced mother of two young children -- a 3-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy. Last Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld Sharp's first-degree murder and kidnapping convictions. Here's the court's 37-page ruling.

Sharp's role in Owen's murder was burning Owen's possessions -- his phones, his photos, his messenger bag.

At her trial, lawyers argued one key point: Whether Sharp told her 18-year-old boyfriend Charles Hollingsworth III "Don't kill him" or "Don't Kill him here" when she saw Hollingsworth standing over Owen with an axe).

The Kansas Supreme Court denied Sharp's appeal on all four points:

Did the trial court err in denying Sharp's motion to suppress her confession? No.

Did the trial court err in limiting the defense's cross-examination of an accomplice witness? No.

Did the trial court err in admitting into evidence statements from two codefendants under the coconspirator exception to the hearsay rule? No.

Did cumulative error deny Sharp a fair trial? No.

Sharp entered maximum custody at Larned State Hospital on April 3, 2007, according to the Kansas Department of Correction's Web site. Sharp's earliest possible release date is July 13, 2026. ..Source.. by Justin Kendall

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