Owens murder trial set for June
By Michael Howlett Staff Writer
The trial date for the first-degree murder charge against Jesse James Owens, 31, of Woodlawn has been set for June 23-25. Owens is being tried for the murder of Dephie Wiley.
During a court hearing on Dec. 18, Defense Attorney Jonathan Venzie asked Circuit Court Judge Brett Geisler for a continuance until March 5.
“There’s still a little bit of room for the Commonwealth and the defense to discuss,” said Venzie.
When asked, Commonwealth Attorney Nathan Lyons told Geisler he “had no problem delaying” the hearing.
Geisler agreed to the delay, but said he wanted to set a trial date. After checking the court’s docket and a discussion with both attorneys, the June date was agreed upon.
During a preliminary hearing on Sept. 10, Nathan Dowell, a witness for the prosecution, testified that Owens shot Wiley with an automatic Marlin .22 caliber rifle on the night of Feb. 8 while the three were “drinking and partying” together at Owen’s home at 90 Boot Jack Drive in Woodlawn. Dowell also testified that he left the premises after the shooting, but upon return saw Owens loading Wiley’s body into a truck.
Dowell called the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department later that night and deputies, led by Investigator Seth Adam Greer, arrived. Greer noted a “significant blood spot in the driveway, and blood and drag marks from the front door to the driveway.” Greer further testified that after obtaining the necessary search warrant, found a “significant amount of blood near the gun cabinet and blood smeared on a light switch.” In addition, a live .22 cartridge was found on the front porch and a spent .22 caliber casing in the residence.
Later that night, Greer received a call from the Hillsville Police Department which had located Owens and had him in custody. Greer spoke to Owens at about 1 a.m. at the sheriff’s department. After being Mirandized by Greer, Owens admitted that he knew Wiley but denied knowing where she was. Later on Feb. 9, the sheriff’s department received a call that a body had been found at Brushy Fork Road and Holly Ridge Road in Cana. The body was later identified as that of Wiley’s. The Western Virginia Forensics Lab later determined that Wiley died from a “gunshot to the head.”
In a second interrogation, Greer, after advising Owens of his Miranda rights, asked him what happened at his trailer on Feb. 8. Greer said Owens’ initial statement was that Owens, Dowell and Wiley “were partying at his trailer, dancing around and the Marlin rifle fell over and shot Wiley.” Owens then told Greer he took Wiley’s body to a Cana area he was “familiar with and unloaded her.”
However, after Greer told Owens the trajectory of the bullet didn’t fit with that account of events, Owens admitted that he shot Wiley in the head.
Owens said although Wiley said she “was in love with him, she had expressed an interest in having a sexual relationship with Mr. Dowell,” according to Greer. “(Owens) said he left the room and when he returned, Mr. Dowell and Ms. Wiley were dancing and rubbing on each other. It made him angry.”
Following further questioning, Greer said that Owens admitted again to shooting Wiley, this time saying “I pulled out a (expletive) gun and shot her.”
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