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40 years after conviction, Florida murderer, rapist will be killed by lethal injection next month


Duane Owen (Florida Department of Corrections)

A man convicted of killing and raping two young women in two separate violent Florida attacks back in 1984 will be killed by lethal injection next month.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed Duane Owen’s death warrant last week — scheduling his execution for June 15.

Despite his many appeals to overturn his death sentence, the 62-year-old will die inside the Florida State Prison after serving nearly 40 years in a Raiford prison cell.

The Violent, Horrifying Crimes:

Karen Slattery (The Palm Beach Post, Investigation Discovery)

On March 24, 1984, Karen Slattery was dropped off at 6:30 p.m. at the Helm’s Delray Beach home to babysit the family’s two children. The 14-year-old was a diver at school, loved to do her friends’ hair, and had just recently gotten her braces off.

Her night started off as usual with the girls — but ended anything but.

Just after midnight, Mr. and Mrs. Helm arrived to a dark home. Most of the lights were off in the house and so was the TV — something he told police was extremely unusual. When Mr. Helm stepped inside his house, he noticed a pool of blood with a hammer laying next to it in his living room.

He immediately told his wife to go to a neighbor’s house and call 911. Seconds later, he spotted a trail of blood leading to the master bedroom — his two little girls were safe, and asleep, in their room.

When police arrived, investigators found Karen naked in the master bedroom — her bra and blouse were pulled up to her shoulders. A medical examiner said her cause of death was from the multiple stab wounds she sustained — 18 to be exact — her lung collapsing while fighting for her life. Karen’s autopsy showed she was sexually assaulted after her death.

Duane Owen confessed to the teen’s murder. In an audio transcript played during his murder trial, he told detectives he broke into the home through the bedroom window earlier in the night and spotted Karen braiding the young girls’ hair. He decided he’d leave, hit up a local bar for a few drinks, then go back to attack her.

Newspaper clipping (Sun-Sentinel, October 19, 1985)

Two hours after his initial break-in, around 11 p.m., he jumped back into the master bedroom through the window, grabbed a pair of women’s gloves he found in the room, and took a hammer that was in the bedroom closet.

He peeked out the master bedroom door, shut the little girl’s bedroom door, and saw Karen in the living room watching TV. She eventually spotted him and ran toward the phone. Owen lunged at Karen and the phone — and began stabbing her.

“Then I took her in the bedroom, just grabbed her feet and drug her, with her head behind, and just closed the door,” he confessed to investigators. “I just raped her.”

Five days later and 20 minutes south, 38-year-old Georgianna Worden was brutally attacked and killed inside her Boca Raton home while her two children slept inside.

Detectives said Georgianna was bludgeoned to death with a hammer and sexually assaulted. Her children found her dead the following morning as they got ready for school.

Prosecutors said that despite the fact Georgianna was bludgeoned to death and Karen was stabbed to death, the remaining facts of the murders were virtually identical.

On May 29, 1984, Owen was arrested for a Boca Raton burglary that had been reported on the same day as Georgianna’s murder. Due to the closeness of the crimes, detectives believed Owen was most likely responsible for both the burglary and the murder.

Once he was in custody, investigators were able to confirm a shoe print left behind at the Helm’s home matched one of Owen’s. He later confessed to both murders.

Obituary (The Palm Beach Post, March 6, 1986)

What’s Next:

A jury found Owen guilty of first-degree murder in both gruesome crimes in March 1986 — a jury recommended he be sentenced to death. In January 1992, a Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the convictions and death sentence. His motions for appeals and petitions for writ of habeas corpus were denied by state and federal judges from September 2000 to May 2009.

On May 9, 2023, Governor DeSantis enclosed his death warrant to Florida State Prison’s Warden and confirmed the execution time for 6 p.m. on  June 15.

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Typically, Florida inmates sentenced to death have the option of electrocution or lethal injection. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, the lethal “cocktail” has a few steps — a prisoner is first injected with a sedative, later jabbed with a paralyzer, and lastly shot up with potassium chloride — which stops the heart from beating.

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