April 1, 2013

Owens pleas to murder charge

Accused of killing grandmother

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A man scheduled for a jury trial for the 2011 murder of his grandmother will now be sentenced on his former trial date.

Jeremy Ray Owens, 34,  of Queen Road in Lily, is set for sentencing on April 19 for beating, stabbing, and then shooting his elderly grandmother on July 27, 2011. His trial, which was postponed from November, was set to begin on April 19; however, Owens entered a guilty plea to the murder charge last Friday.

Owens is charged with murdering 74-year-old Bernice Champlin at her home after an argument between the two. Owens, who reportedly lived with Champlin at the time, allegedly beat her, before stabbing and shooting her.

Owens, who has been incarcerated since the incident, entered the guilty plea in Laurel Circuit Court on Friday, March 22. Had he pursued a jury trial, he could have received between 20 to 50 years in prison, or a life sentence. Instead, as part of the plea agreement, Owens will serve a 20-year sentence for his grandmother’s death.

Autopsy reports indicated the gunshot wound took Champlin’s life, although a gun and a knife were found beside the woman as she lay in the hallway of her home.

Owens held police at bay after they arrived on the scene. His brother, Josh Owens, left the home after the shooting and told police the then-32-year-old man was still inside the house and was armed.

Laurel County Sheriff John Root obtained a cell phone number and talked Owens into surrendering to police. He was arrested without incident.

The day after Champlin was buried, Jeremy Owens was in Laurel District Court for a preliminary hearing on the murder charge. Detective Billy Madden testified during that hearing Champlin was severely beaten in the face, in addition to the knife and gunshot wounds. He testified the gunshot wound was the cause of death. Owens was held under a $250,000 cash bond.