Special Report: Broken Trust

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Erica Owen’s ascending future was suddenly halted on July 3, when police said she was strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend, Matthew Adams.

At the time of Erica’s murder, Adams not only had an Emergency Protective Order filed against him, he also had a warrant out for his arrest. Adams wasn’t arrested on that warrant until the day of Erica’s death, weeks after it was generated.

‘An independent young woman with an extremely big heart’

Erica Owen was a daughter whose willingness to give trust demanded it in return.

“Even as a three or four-year-old person, she was the person always being that little mother figure,” said Lisa Greer as she reflected on her daughter.

“It seemed like I was driving in quicksand to get home. Once she told me, it felt like my heart literally exploded.” remembered Erica’s father, Rece Owen.

Described by her parents and step parents as an independent young woman with an extremely big heart, Erica Owen’s heart displayed infectious leadership. 

Photos of Erica with her younger brother Drew hang in her mom’s home. Erica was close with her entire family.

Her parents shared how special the 25-year-old was growing up. 

In an interview with Eyewitness News, they were accompanied by two other people who helped raise Erica and shared an equally close bond.

Brian Greer, her stepfather, and Stacy Owen, her stepmother, each accompanied their spouses to relive happy moments, while also remembering the sad ones.

Erica spoke at her graduation and, at the spur of the moment, her grandfather’s funeral.

“I didn’t know she was going to do that. It actually surprised me. She got up and did a great job. I cried my eyes out,” said Rece Owen.   

On July 3, Erica Owen was only a few months out of nursing school but felt right at home at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital.

“Erica worked all the way through school, through high school, college. She spent a lot of waking hours either working or going to school,” bragged Rece Owen. 

While making her parents proud, she also gained the trust of patients she served every day.

“Not only did Erica go to school to be a nurse. She worked at the hospital starting around the time she was 15,” said her father.

Words no parent wants to hear

Her whole life seemed ahead of her until it abruptly ended.

“Those aren’t words any parent wants to hear. I don’t know if there are words to describe it,” said Erica’s mother, Lisa.

On the third day of July, police said Erica was strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend Matthew Adams. 

At one point in her life, he was someone she had believed in, someone she had trusted.

That feeling changed a month before she was killed. 

Protective order filed in June

Erica filed an emergency protective order against Matthew Adams in the first days of June. According to an Owensboro Police report, Adams was seen going into Erica’s home on Placid Place on June 2.

Police said Erica had just left the house to obtain an Emergency Protective Order against Adams.

Erica told police that when she got home she found damage inside. Police said Adams admitted to being at the house but denied causing damage. 

In the same police report, officers said Adams entered the backyard through a privacy fence the next day or overnight, taking a lawn mower. Erica later found her pool slashed and a truck keyed/scratched, according to police.

Adams arrested the month before Owen’s death; warrant generated

Adams was arrested on a charge of criminal mischief a few days later on June 7.

As for Matthew Adams, he was no stranger to the court system in Daviess County. At the time of Erica’s murder, he not only had an Emergency Protective Order filed against him, he also had a warrant out for his arrest.  

It was a warrant generated while he was in jail, but one that he wasn’t actually arrested on until the day of Erica’s murder — weeks later.

Adams was charged with criminal mischief on June 7 for the alleged damage at Erica’s house. The next day, court records show this new arrest may have violated probation Adams was under for a series of past charges. 

According to a Probation and Parole report written on June 8, Adams was placed on probation in November 2016. The charges in that case include Driving DUI with a Suspended License and Operating a Motor Vehicle Under The Influence of Alcohol. Drugs, Etc. – 4th Offense or Greater. Adams was sentenced to five years probation and one year in prison for each charge.

Eyewitness News reported in 2015 that Adams was arrested on his fifth DUI in five years when he was pulled over by a Daviess County Sheriff’s Deputy. 

Citing Adams’ new arrest on the criminal mischief charge in June 2018, Probation and Parole in Daviess County made a recommendation to revoke that probation. 

Days later on June 12, it appears the probation officer’s report was signed by a judge, beginning the process of filing an arrest warrant for a probation violation. 

The document that appears to have a judge’s initials was filed with the Daviess County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office on the same day. 

In Adams’ case file, a bench warrant was generated for his arrest on June 12, 2018, but it wasn’t signed.

According to court records, a warrant in the case was not signed until June 18, 2018, when it was electronically signed by Judge Joseph Castlen.

On the day of June 13, after spending the night in jail once again, Adams appeared in front of a judge, not once but twice in court. Both for hearings involving Erica Owen.

On the afternoon of June 13, Matthew Adams first court hearing of the day was in Daviess Family Court. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss a Domestic Violence Order between he and Erica.

During the hearing a judge laid out the agreed conditions. Matthew Adams was ordered to stay 500 feet away from Erica Owen and 3212 Placid Place.

In a criminal hearing later in the afternoon in Daviess District Court on June 13 in front of Judge Lisa Jones, Adams was given a $10,000 unsecured bond on his newest charge of criminal mischief.

At the closing of the hearing, Adams was escorted out of the judicial center in his orange jumpsuit and taken back to the Daviess County Detention Center.

In a matter of hours, he was released from jail per the conditions of his unsecured bond on the charge of criminal mischief.

Before being released on the June 13, Adams spent most of the day under watch, in custody, in government buildings, in front of several people who had the power to arrest him. If the warrant had been signed when it was generated on June 12, law would have allowed for him to be arrested while in custody.

The warrant was electronically signed five days after Adams was released from jail.

It would be two weeks later that Erica Owen would be found dead in her home. 

Could Erica’s death have been prevented?

If Adams had been arrested for his probation violation anytime before that date, court records show he would have been scheduled to serve one year in prison, keeping him behind bars the day Erica was killed.

“Once he was released from jail, there’s a question about that. That’s when this murder occurred. That’s when he started looking for her,” said Daviess County Attorney Claud Porter.

Now, as Erica’s parents think, ‘what if,’ an extra layer of grief washes over them.

“There still is disbelief. That feeling doesn’t go away,” said Lisa Greer angrily.

“Every morning when I wake up, I have that feeling of disbelief. Did this really happen to her?” added Erica’s father.

“The reality is you have to move forward the best you can. Those aren’t feelings or words you hear that you’re ever going to get over. You just aren’t. You just move through it. You don’t get over it,” added Greer.

Those who loved Erica are now on a mission, spreading a message to other women like her who may be in the same situation.

“Of course I always wish, ‘Why couldn’t I have been there that morning and stopped this from happening?’ My advice is to any parent that if you think this is going on, you’ve got to get involved. You’ve got to get deeply involved and make sure it ends. There were issues and problems that were taking place that she didn’t talk about earlier in their relationship, because she didn’t want to embarrass herself. I’m sure she was being urged by him not to tell your parents. She didn’t want us to be upset, worrying about things. I think when it comes to that, issues, a lot of people don’t want to speak about it for personal reasons of maybe being embarrassed, or they’re asked not to repeat things to family. What I’m finding out, I think it was Erica’s case. I think, not until later on, when she finally decided that this relationship was over, did she with me get into a lot of details as to what was going on,” said Rece Owen.

She was a young inspiring woman who never got to fully show the world what she could ultimately be.

“People who see her, but maybe didn’t know her, might think she was very physically beautiful,” said Lisa Greer fighting back tears. “But I want them to know she was truly that kind of person on the inside.”

A young man is now facing the death penalty if convicted.

“The system didn’t work as well as it was supposed to, probably, and we’re looking to try to find the holes in the system to do what we can to make sure those holes are filled,” explained Claud Porter. 

In the meantime, parents are left to wonder if they’ll ever be able to trust again.

“I don’t know what I would say, but I know I would love to trade places with her. She had too much of a future ahead of her.” 

Erica’s family has created a scholarship fund in her name for nursing students at Owensboro Community and Technical College. If you would like to donate, you can click here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic violence, in Owensboro you can reach out to Oasis Women’s Shelter. You can go to their website by clicking here.

In Evansville, the Albion Fellows Bacon Center serves a large portion of southwestern Indiana with resources regarding domestic violence. To find out more about the organization, click here.

For the latest breaking news and stories from across the Tri-State, follow Eyewitness News on Facebook and Twitter.
(This story was originally published on November 19, 2018)

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