Say Goodbye: The divorce had taken a toll on Arthur. He was coming apart at the seams. Why, oh why, were the children left in his care?
The Story in Her Eyes: A woman drowns in the bathtub. Her husband swears it’s an accident. He’s up against a brilliant pathologist who thinks otherwise.
When Love and Hate Collide: A scheming lawyer and his neurotic wife are the protagonists in this warped tale of bad choices and dire consequences.
She Loves Me Not: John wanted a romantic relationship. Heather just wanted to be friends. Between those conflicting objectives lies a slaughter.
The Curse of Good Fortune: Winning the lottery was the best day of Bazil Thorne’s life. It was also the worst.
Malice: Everyone said that Perry was a good father who loved his kids more than anything in the world. Everyone was dead wrong.
Blackout: She was the pretty clerk behind the counter at the video store. He was the creepy guy hanging out in the X-rated section…always watching.
Family Business: Susanne should have known better. Never hire an amateur to do a professional’s job. Especially when the job involves murder.
Murder Most Vile Volume 38
The sight that had caused such an extreme reaction from William and Carolyn, that had shocked even an experienced homicide detective like Rick Lincoln, was a terrible thing to behold. On the floor of the kitchen, stark under the white light, was a large puddle of blood, almost black in its intensity. From there, a thick trail of the stuff tracked across the floor, down the hall, into the master bedroom. Even worse was to be found here. Karen Slattery lay on the bed, her naked body perforated by multiple stab wounds, her blouse pulled over her face, hiding her dead eyes. An autopsy would later determine that the 14-year-old had suffered 18 deep and terrible knife wounds, to her back, her neck, her throat. She had also been raped, with this atrocity inflicted either while she was taking her last breaths or already dead. The only point of solace in this horrendous tragedy was that the two little girls, aged seven and two, were unharmed. They’d apparently slept through the whole thing.
Piecing the puzzle together, detectives figured that the murder had happened between 10:00 p.m., when Karen phoned her mother, and 12:15 p.m., when the Helms returned from their dinner date. A cut screen in the master bedroom marked the spot where the killer had entered the home. He’d attacked Karen in the kitchen, probably just after she hung up the phone. He’d then dragged her down the hall to the bedroom, where he raped her. Then, having sated his unnatural lusts, he’d taken a shower, leaving blood on a mat and on a bath towel in the process. Finally, he left, walking out through the front door. A bicycle track in the dirt suggested that he might have traveled to and from the crime scene by that means. The imprint of a bare foot outside the bedroom window was believed to be from the killer. The police also had a sample of his semen, although this was of limited use in those pre-DNA days. Regrettably, they did not have a single fingerprint. The killer had been careful.
The murder of Karen Slattery was a crime that severely traumatized the community of Delray Beach. The police were under tremendous pressure to solve it and they worked the clues hard. Neighbors were quizzed and Karen’s friends interviewed; known sex offenders were hauled in and interrogated; anyone found riding a bicycle at night was stopped and quizzed; even William Helm found himself under suspicion at one point. And there were tips, of course, dozens of them that had to be followed up and investigated. Two of these initially seemed promising but the suspects were ultimately released after their blood types did not match the semen lifted from the crime scene.
While all of this was going on, the Slattery family was not sitting idle in their mourning. Eugene Slattery, Karen’s dad, was particularly active in the hunt for his daughter’s killer. Along with friends and neighbors, he raised $50,000, to be offered as a reward for information. This was advertised through hundreds of flyers, plastered around town. It all came to nothing. Two months passed with limited progress in the case. The police were stumped. In truth, they had very little to go on, limited forensics, no eyewitnesses, no one who’d seen or heard anything untoward.
The city of Boca Raton lies a short nine miles from Delray Beach, directly accessible via I-95. It was here that single mom, Georgianna Worden, lived with her daughters, aged 13 and nine. On the night of May 28, 1984, Georgianna stayed up to watch a movie on television. She then retired to bed, turning out the lights just after 11 p.m. The following morning, the girls were surprised to find that their mom was not up before them, as she usually was. They were even more perplexed to find that her bedroom door was locked. No amount of banging or calling brought any response from within and so the 13-year-old fetched a pry bar and levered the door open. The girls walked in on a scene that no child should ever see. Their mother was lying naked on the bed, drenched in blood that had also seeped into the bedclothes and spattered across the walls and furnishings. They ran screaming from the house.
Almost from the start, investigators believed that the man who’d killed Georgianna Worden was the same person who’d butchered Karen Slattery. However, there was one significant difference between the two crimes. A butcher’s knife was found on Georgianna’s bedside table but the killer hadn’t used it. He’d battered the petite 38-year-old to death with a claw hammer. According to the medical examiner’s report, Georgianna had suffered, “multiple depressed fractures of the skull involving the left orbit, frontal area, and right temporal area.”
Discounting the choice of murder weapon, the crimes were strikingly similar. In both cases, the killer had gained access by cutting through a screen; in both, he’d sexually assaulted the victim while she was dying or already dead; in both he’d covered the victim’s face. He’d then taken a shower before slipping away into the night.
This time, though, the killer had made a crucial mistake. He’d left behind a single print. From a paperback novel sitting on the nightstand, crime scene technicians were able to lift a smeared imprint of his left little finger. This wasn’t the clearest fingerprint by any means. Forensic experts believed that they could clean it up but it would take days, potentially a week or more. And this was time that the police did not have. A killer this vicious was very likely to strike again.
The next week would be an extremely anxious one for investigators. But at least they had other leads to follow. The first of these involved an attempted burglary, in which the householder had confronted a man who he found cutting through a window screen on his property. The burglar had fled the scene and escaped by diving into a canal. He’d left his sneakers and 12-speed bicycle behind. The second case was far more serious, involving housebreaking, rape and battery. In this instance an unknown perpetrator had entered a 17-year-old’s bedroom, beaten her unconscious with a hammer and then raped her. The girl survived but was left with permanent brain damage. The police had every reason to believe that the person responsible was the killer of Georgianna Worden and Karen Slattery.
And then there was the case of the Florida Atlantic University flasher. This individual had been exposing himself to female students on the campus. In the week before the Worden murder, one of these students had given police a sketch of the suspect. They’d then compared the drawing to the mug book of known sex offenders and found a match that looked promising. The suspect’s picture was put into a photo array that was shown to several students. All of them picked out the same man – a small-time burglar and sex offender named Duane Owen.
On May 30, a Boca Raton police officer was on patrol when she spotted the suspect. Asked to identify himself, he showed a military ID in the name of Dana Brown. He was arrested anyway and brought to the station. There, he continued to insist that his name was Dana Brown. It was only when police showed him his own mugshot that he eventually admitted to being Duane Owen.
Duane Eugene Owen was born on February 13, 1961. He grew up in Gas City, Indiana, a town of about 5,000 inhabitants, situated between Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. Life was hard for Duane and his brother, Mitchell. Their parents were both alcoholics and abused the boys, each in their own way. Gene Owen was a brutal man who frequently beat his sons. The boys’ mother, meanwhile, fed them alcohol, usually a concoction of vodka and Sprite, when they were not even ten years old.
But even life in the dysfunctional Owen household was preferable to what awaited the boys next. After their mother died in 1970 and their father committed suicide soon after, Duane and Mitchell were sent to the VFW orphanage in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. They would remain here until 1979, suffering physical and sexual abuse. After leaving the orphanage, Duane took to drifting, moving from place to place, racking up arrests wherever he went. Mitchell, meanwhile, settled in Florida, where Duane would join him in 1982. Here, as before, he began compiling a lengthy rap sheet for burglary and sex crimes, mainly flashing and peeping tom complaints.
However, Owen’s crimes were becoming progressively more violent. On November 1, 1982, he broke into a room at the Peter Pan Motel in Boca Raton and clubbed the female occupant with such force that a section of her skull became embedded in her brain. He then proceeded to rape the severely injured victim. On February 9, 1984, he entered an apartment near the Boca Raton Regional Hospital and beat 18-year-old Marilee Manley nearly to death with a wrench. Again, he raped his seriously hurt victim. Given the level of violence inflicted on them, it is a miracle that these women survived. The next victim would not be so lucky. Karen Slattery, a carefree 14-year-old with dreams of becoming a schoolteacher, had just six weeks left to live.
That Duane Owen was the man responsible for Karen’s death, and that of Georgianna Worden, was not in doubt for investigators. But suspicion alone has never won a murder conviction. What they really needed was solid forensic evidence and, failing that, a confession. Unfortunately, it did not look like Owen was ready to confess any time soon. He was enjoying his moment in the spotlight, teasing the cops, dangling little bits of information in front of them only to clam up when it looked like he might be about to share something meaningful. He readily admitted to the flashing charge and to a series of burglaries but had nothing to say when it came to murder. Instead, he wrote taunting little couplets like this one, “Roses are red, you pigs are blue, if you count up my victims, there’ll be quite a few.”
But Owen was in less jocular mood when the fingerprint evidence came back from the lab, placing him inside Georgianna Worden’s house on the night she died. Confronted with this, he finally came clean and admitted that it was he who had beaten her to death. He delivered this confession with not a trace of remorse. In fact, there was a distinct hint of pride as he explained his M.O. He said that he always stripped down to his underwear before entering a victim’s house. He would then use his socks as makeshift gloves, pulling them over his hands to avoid leaving prints behind. In the Worden murder, the socks had become so drenched with blood that he’d gone to the bathroom to rinse them. He’d later put them back on but must have touched the book before doing so.
The police now had Owen’s confession to the Worden murder. But he was still making them work for an admission in the Slattery case. Despite the obvious similarities between the crimes, he was still insisting (usually with a grin on his face) that he wasn’t the person responsible. Instead, he continued his game of dropping in little titbits of information, things that he could only have known if he’d been inside the house. He would continue taunting the police for days before he apparently tired of the game and admitted, “Yeah, I did it.”
According to Owen, he would go out at night on ‘maneuvers,’ riding his bicycle around a neighborhood, looking for places to rob or women he could peep in on. On the night of March 24, he spotted Karen Slattery through the window of the Helm residence and decided that he wanted to rape her. He then entered the house through a window in the master bedroom. However, he soon realized that the little girls were still awake and so he left, cycled to a nearby bar and had a few beers before returning to the house. This time he found Karen alone. She had just hung up the phone when he ambushed her, plunging the knife in again and again, cutting down the defenseless girl where she stood.
Duane Owen faced separate trials for the murders of Karen Slattery and Georgianna Worden. But the outcomes were the same, guilty of murder and sentenced to die. At the time of writing, he remains on death row, having spent more than twice Karen Slattery’s lifespan fending off his date with the executioner.
In the years since her death, Karen Slattery’s family has endured yet another tragedy. Her father, Eugene, died in a light aircraft crash in 1989. He at least lived long enough to see his daughter’s killer sentenced to death. The $50,000 reward raised by Karen’s friends and family was never claimed. It was used instead to found the Karen Slattery Education Research Center for Child Development at Florida Atlantic University. In 1987, the graduating class at Pope John Paul High, Karen’s class, planted a tree in her honor. Rooted as a sapling, it stands, tall and proud, on the school grounds to this day.
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