1200 Weimer Hall | P.O. Box 118405
Gainesville, FL 32611
(352) 392-5551

A service of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.

© 2024 WUFT / Division of Media Properties
News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Convicted killer Duane Owens is executed for murders of two Florida women

Ted Wilson and his fiance, Melanie Edwards, who were friends of Duane Owens, stand outside Florida State Prison minutes before Owens execution. (Jordan Ramos/WUFT)
Ted Wilson and his fiance, Melanie Edwards, who were friends of Duane Owens, stand outside Florida State Prison minutes before Owens execution. (Jordan Ramos/WUFT)

Duane Eugene Owens, 62, who was convicted of killing two Florida women in the mid-1980s, was executed at 6:14 p.m. Thursday at the Florida State Prison without incident, according to the prison’s communications director.

He was the 103rd person to be executed in the state of Florida and the fourth this year after the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. 

Owens was convicted of the murder and sexual battery of a Delray Beach teenager and a Boca Raton woman, according to documents from the Florida Supreme Court. 

Debbi Johnson, whose sister Karen Slattery was one of Owen’s victims, spoke at a press conference after the execution.

“Thirty-nine years of this process is finally over,” said Johnson, who is the deputy sheriff for Monroe County. “The Slattery family may now close Karen’s book, put it on a shelf and move forward.” 

Among those holding vigil protesting Owens’ execution were members of the Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

“All life is sacred so if we are going to be against abortion we also have to be against the death penalty,” said Nancy Witt, a psychotherapist. “It makes no sense to discern one from the other.”

In March of 1984, 14-year-old Karen Slattery was babysitting two children when Owens broke into the Delray Beach home and stabbed Slattery 18 times. Owens then proceeded to commit sexual battery against the teenager. The two children Slattery was babysitting were unharmed, according to court documents. 

Two months later, in May of 1984, Georgianna Worden was found bludgeoned to death in her bed in her Boca Raton home by her two young children who were getting ready for school, according to court documents. 

Worden, 38 at the time of her death, was Owens’ second victim.

Father Fred Ruse, a Catholic priest from Orlando, gave a short sermon at the vigil. 

“Of course, it’s raining, and of course, there’s thunder and lightning,” said Ruse. “God’s forces and powers of creation and nature know the moment.” 

Ruse said he felt that the court system failed Owens and that he deserved more mental health resources. 

“This should make it very very clear that our society has failed. Failed Duane, and in failing Duane, we failed both of these young women,” said Ruse. 

Ted Wilson, and his fiance, Melanie Edwards, who had befriended Owens while he was in prison, held signs with pictures of Owens when he was young. 

“He was a big geek. He was funny. He was obsessed with science. He was a Swiftie (Taylor Swift fan). He wanted to be a vampire a little bit,” said Wilson. “I would say he’s regretful. He’s expressed that to me before.” 

The two, who have known Owens for about five years, said they visited him one last time a week ago. 

“He’s also probably the kindest person I’ve known. He’s just such a genuine person,” said Edwards. “He just wanted to help people. Ever since he got in there he just wanted to help everybody.” 

Owens didn’t make any final statements before his death, according to Johnson, who was among the witnesses to the execution. 

“When the curtain went up it was extremely emotional because this is it,” said Johnson. “It was finally gonna be done within a matter of minutes. Too many minutes.” 

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Owens’ death warrant for Worden’s case on May 9. A judge had sentenced Owens to be executed for both murders. 

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas denied Owens’ appeal to the execution on Wednesday, according to an article from the Florida Times-Union.

The Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is a grassroots organization that advocates for people getting life in prison instead of the death penalty, according to Maria DeLiberato, the executive director for the organization. 

In April of this year, DeSantis lowered the death penalty threshold in the state of Florida. This change allows juries with an eight-to-four vote to recommend the death sentence. 

“No other state allows a majority vote like that. It lessens our reliability and lessens stability in the system," said DeLiberato. “It’s going to lead to more litigation, more delay and more uncertainty and undoubtedly will be found unconstitutional by the court.” 

The grassroots organization made a Facebook post after Owens' death with a picture of his final written words from Thursday morning at 7:45 a.m. 

“I have transcended space and time. I have seen the visions of the crow, my energy and particles will transform ad infinitum (forever), I will live on. I am Tula. 13,” wrote Owens.

Jordan is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.