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Press Release

Jonesville Man Sentenced on Murder for Hire Charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia
Harold Wayne Owen to Serve 248 Months in Prison

ABINGDON, VIRGINIA – A Jonesville, Virginia man, who previously pled guilty to attempting to hire someone to murder a Pennington Gap Police Officer, was sentenced today in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Abingdon on a pair of related federal charges, United States Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. announced.

Harold Wayne Owen, 49, of Jonesville, Va., pled guilty in 2015 to one count of the use of a facility of interstate commerce to commit murder for hire and one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

Today in District Court, Owen was sentenced to 248 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release thereafter.

“Mr. Owen tried to have one of the brave men who protect our communities murdered for simply doing his job,” United States Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. said today. “Every day, men and women all across this country put on a uniform to serve and protect their communities. It’s an honorable and oftentimes dangerous job. This case should show that we will do whatever we can to protect those officers when their lives are threatened in any way.”

According to evidence presented at previous hearings by Assistant United States Attorney Zachary T. Lee, Owen attempted to hire an individual [ATF-CI] to kill a Pennington Gap, Virginia police officer whom Owens held a grudge against for previously administering a field sobriety test to Owen during a traffic stop for driving under the influence.

Beginning on December 15, 2014, Owen approached ATF-CI and said he was waiting for a $100,000 insurance settlement and asked if ATF-CI wanted to do something for him for $20,000. Owen said he would tell ATF-CI more about the job later. The next day, Owen told ATF-CI there was a police officer working for the Pennington Gap Police Department who had been harassing him and he wanted something done. On December 17, 2014, Owen called ATF-CI and gave him a detailed physical description of the police officer (which matched an officer working for the department at the time) and further stated that a picture of the intended target could be found in the newspaper. Owen told ATF-CI he could not possess a firearm because he was a felon but said he could provide a .223 rifle to use for the job, which again Owen said would pay $20,000.

On January 6, 2015, ATF-CI met with Owen at his residence to again discuss the plan to be paid $20,000 to murder a Pennington Gap police officer. During that meeting, Owen again described the officer and talked about how the ticket he wrote Owen ruined him. ATF-CI mentioned that he was a felon and could not purchase a firearm, Owen stated that he, too, was a felon but could “take care of everything you need.” The two men talked about staging an alibi for Owen during the time the murder was to take place and the type of firearm that would be used for the murder. At one point during the conversation, AFT-CI asked Owen if killing the officer was worth it. Owen said no, but “I’m a grudge keeping fu**er.” Owen said he did not know where the officer lived but could find out. ATF-CI said he wanted to be sure the officer he killed was the right one, Owen said he did too because he couldn’t afford to pay ATF-CI to kill two police officers.

On January 14, 2015, Owen met with ATF-CI and told him he expected his insurance claim money to be paid in the next thirty to sixty days. For killing the Pennington Gap Police Office, Owen told ATF-CI he would pay him $12,000 if he received a $100,000 insurance check, $15,000 if he received $115,000 and $20,000 if he received more than $130,000. Owen also told ATF-CI that he would get him a .223 rifle, 308 rifle or a hand gun. Owen said if AFT-CI was going to use a rifle, there was a water tower they could sit in with a straight view of the Pennington Gap Police Department.

On February 7, 2015, Owen facilitated the sale of a firearm, an AK-47 style rifle, from a third party, to ATF-CI, for use in the murder for hire plot to kill the Pennington Gap Police Officer.

The investigation of the case was conducted by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Pennington Gap Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Zachary T. Lee prosecuted the case for the United States.

Updated March 31, 2016

Violent Crime