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Longview man sentenced to 40 years in 2010 fatal wreck

By Robin Y. Richardson ryrichardson@news-journal.com
March 20, 2013 at 11 p.m.


MARSHALL - A Harrison County jury sentenced a Longview man to 40 years in prison Wednesday on a charge of murder for a 2010 traffic death.

Charles Ray Owens Jr. claimed he suffered amnesia from injuries he sustained in the wreck, saying he did not recall any events surrounding the fatal crash.

Owens wept as the son of victim Robert Smith told how his father's death impacted their family.

"For my mom, being married for 30-plus years, to see that broke up, it's so hard on her each and every day," Clayton Smith said. "We don't know what to tell her. ... "I hope you can find salvation and repent for what you've done. You took so much from us. We can't have it back."

Owens, who was not allowed to respond, blurted out an apology as he was escorted from the courtroom.

"Sorry, Mr. Smith," he said, turning his head toward him.

Owens was charged with murder after running a stop sign, causing a three-vehicle wreck in which he struck a pickup and then hit a Honda driven by Smith. At the time, Owens was traveling 82 mph fleeing a DPS trooper who had learned during a traffic stop that Owens was wanted in a Michigan home invasion.

Prosecutors asked the jury to assess a punishment of either 62 years or life.

"Give him not a day less than 62 years in jail because that's how old Robert Smith was when he died," said Shawn Connally, assistant prosecutor in the case. "Make sure that this man will never have the opportunity to hurt anyone again."

Defense Attorney Vernard Solomon asked the jury to consider Smith's death was not intentional.

"That makes this case different from any other murder case you ever read or heard about because every other murder case requires it to be intentional," Solomon argued.

"In this kind of case, the law allows you to find him guilty of that same title offense, murder, but without any intent to do so. … We had an event that occurred that was dumb, stupid and uncalled for," Solomon said. "We had a result that ended that was unintentional and not planned."

Owens will not be eligible for parole until he has served one-half of the sentence. He will receive credit for any time he's already served. He also has the right to appeal.

"We're pleased with the verdict," said Assistant District Attorney Tim Cariker, lead prosecutor for the case.

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