The Coastal Star

Editor's Note: After three decades, teen’s murder still haunts

How could you write this story? Why dredge up such horrible memories?
I expect to hear those questions. I anticipate this story may upset many of our readers. I recognize that this is a very different sort of story for The Coastal Star.
Let me explain:
When I saw late last year that Duane Owen had had what seemed to be a final clemency hearing, I felt that his imminent execution should not go unnoted. I wanted to know how a heinous killer could be lingering on death row for three decades.
But I didn’t want to just write about Owen. He didn’t deserve to be the focus of our story. I wanted The Coastal Star to write about how his violence spree 31 years ago this month had left an indelible mark on the consciousness of our community.
Even if you are new to the area, you will find that the murder of 14-year-old Karen Slattery still haunts our community. Just ask your neighbor.
Without a doubt it haunts the memories of the veteran journalists who reported on, photographed or edited the stories that made headlines during those horrible days following the teen’s murder. Many of them now work for The Coastal Star. We still think about it when we drive down certain streets, or hear about other horrible crimes in other places.
Even three decades later, Karen’s name comes up over coffee or cocktails when something stirs our memory.
And we are not alone. As Randy Schultz researched this story, he talked with prosecutors and defense attorneys, detectives and police officers. All of whom can’t forget this case.
There simply is no way to forget a crime — or a killer — this horrendous.  And if we do forget, don’t we risk letting Owen’s victims simply fade away? Don’t we neglect to acknowledge the dedicated police work of both Delray Beach and Boca Raton in working together to get a horrendous serial criminal off the streets? Don’t we even forget to honor the memory of an innocent who died much, much too young?
When my husband went looking to locate Karen Slattery’s grave at Boynton Beach Memorial Park, I suggested he do it on Valentine’s Day. Surely, I thought, someone would have dropped a flower there — a small token of remembrance.
No one had. Instead, the tombstone had been mowed over and partially covered with sand. Seemingly forgotten.
This solidified my belief that we should tell this story.
We should remember Karen.
And Georgianna Worden.
And the other victims. And their families. And their friends.
And I believe we should tell this story so if the day comes when the governor signs Owen’s death warrant, we remember why. It is important that we don’t forget.

Mary Kate Leming,

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