Prosecutors plan to ask a judge to dismiss a murder charge against Edward Lewis Owens, who had been accused of murdering Woods Cross resident Karin Strom in 1980.
New DNA test results did not exonerate Owens, but "they create tremendous difficulty in proving this case beyond a reasonable doubt," according to a statement from the Davis County Attorney's Office.
Owens was set to stand trial for first-degree felony murder starting Jan. 8, 2008.
Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said his office "takes seriously the ethical obligation requiring a reasonable probability of conviction by a unanimous jury before taking a case to trial."
Rawlings said Owens "remains one of the primary suspects," but his office now plans to ask 2nd District Judge Jon Memmott to dismiss the case without prejudice at a motion hearing set for Dec. 21. Dismissal "without prejudice" means charges could be filed again.
The Strom murder case was revived this year with the advent of new DNA testing that appeared "compelling" as far as pointing to Owens as the killer, according to Rawlings. Additional testing, however, turned out to be considerably more problematic and "cast enough doubt" that it seemed unlikely a jury would convict Owens.
Karin Strom was 25 when she was strangled to death in her home.
Rawlings said "our hearts sorrow for all of Karin's family and friends," and thanked them for their courage and understanding of the factual and legal realities of the case. "Justice for Karin and her survivors continues to be actively pursued," he said.
But Owens' lawyer, Michael Studebaker, said his client has always maintained his innocence and laments the fact that Karin Strom's loved ones have had to watch as two possible suspects were charged in 27 years, only to have charges dismissed in both cases.
Owens, 57, was a co-worker with Karin Strom's husband, Steve Strom, who at one point was charged with killing her. The charges against Steve Strom were later dismissed.
"We feel bad about the fact the Strom family has had to go through this twice now," Studebaker said. "Who is the murderer? I don't know, but I can tell you it is not Ed Owens and the evidence supports it not being Ed Owens."
Studebaker said his client is "ecstatic" that prosecutors want the charges dismissed. "He said from day one he was innocent and we stand by that," Studebaker said. "Last month, he (Owens) was released from jail on an ankle monitor and he had a great Thanksgiving. Now he's probably getting ready to have one of the best Christmases ever. He can go on living his life."
Studebaker chided the Davis County Attorney's Office for not doing more extensive testing and evaluation of the case before charging Owens nine months ago."While we feel sympathy for the Strom family, we also feel frustration and disappointment and anger that Ed Owens has been accused of the most serious crime someone can be accused of murder," Studebaker said.