By Rich Pollack
Word spread quickly through south Palm Beach County after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a death warrant for Duane Owen last month.
Owen, who was convicted in the gruesome 1984 murders of 14-year-old Karen Slattery — who was babysitting at a Delray Beach home east of the Intracoastal Waterway — and of Boca Raton mother Georgiana Worden, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on June 15.
DeSantis had issued a pause on the execution in late May, pending a mental health examination of Owen, but revoked the stay after the investigation showed Owen “has the mental capacity to understand the death penalty and the reasons why it is to be imposed on him.” Though Owen has been on death row for 37 years, the news reopened a wound for some whose lives were touched by his crimes.
“It was a horrible time in our lives,” said former Delray Beach detective Marc Woods, who, at Owen’s request, took the killer’s confession, along with other investigators. “We suffered trauma from all of this and you defer that for a later time.”
Woods said he first heard from a former colleague that DeSantis had signed a death warrant. “It took time to process,” he said.
Woods says he takes no joy in hearing that someone will be put to death, but accepts the way the judicial system operates.
“If he had been executed in 1986, it would be different,” he said. “Now, after all this time, it’s just more numbness.”
Woods says that while Owen’s death will provide some closure, it will never heal the scars many still carry.
“This is a book entitled Pain and this is just another chapter,” he said. “The execution won’t close the book because of the pain that everyone carries today. The book never closes, only the chapter does.”
The violence of Owen’s crimes shook Delray Beach and surrounding areas for weeks.
Karen Slattery was stabbed 18 times after Owen broke in through a window of the home where she was babysitting.
Georgiana Worden was beaten to death with a hammer, while her two children slept in another room at their Boca Raton Hills home south of Spanish River Boulevard. Both victims were raped.
A fingerprint that was extracted from a book Worden was reading — Mistral’s Daughter — led to Owen’s arrest for carrying a false military ID, a long two months after Karen Slattery’s death put many in Delray Beach on edge.
It would be a couple of weeks before Woods and detectives from Boca Raton were able to extract a confession from Owen and file murder charges as he sat in the Palm Beach County jail.
Attorneys for Owen have appealed his death sentences several times, bringing him back to Palm Beach County more than once.
In the latest court action, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen in mid-May denied a stay of execution sought by Owen’s attorneys.
Several former Delray Beach police officers are planning to stand outside Florida State Prison in Raiford if and when Owen is executed.
“We’re going to show our support for the Delray Beach Police Department and in support of the law of Florida and in support of the Slattery family,” said retired officer Jeff Messer, who grew up in Delray and joined the department after the murders. “It’s not a celebration, it’s just finally putting this thing to bed.”