An East Bridgewater, Mass. man accused of beating his ex-wife to death and setting her home on fire has been indicted by a grand jury, according to the Norfolk District Attorney's Office.
Brendon Owen, 47, is facing charges for the death of 49-year-old Shirley Owen at her home on Grace Lane in Franklin, Mass., this past December. He also faces charges of assault and kidnapping of her mother, who also lived in the home.
The grand jury issued eight indictments - murder, armed assault in a dwelling, armed home invasion, kidnapping, arson, assault and battery DW on a person over 60, and violation of a restraining order.
Brendon Owen has already pleaded not guilty to charges of charges of murder, home invasion, kidnapping, arson of a dwelling, and assault and battery causing serious bodily injury in Wrentham District court.
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The Alleged Deadly Beating
Norfolk County prosecutors said in court that Brendon Owen committed the calculated killing of his former wife on Dec. 17, 2021.
Shirley Owens' mother spotted her former son-in-law at the home around 7:30 a.m. before he hit her with a pipe and duct taped her, saying, "you better not warn her," prosecutors said.
Wounded, Shirley Owen's mother was able to free herself and run to a neighbor's house, where she said Brendon Owen was beating her daughter with a hammer or a pipe, prosecutors said. Police would later allegedly find items used to dispose of a body in his car.
Someone at the neighbor's house called 911, and police officers arrived within five minutes to find smoke and fire coming from the building. When two of the officers approached, they saw Brendon Owen, who tried to flee through another door, but another officer was stationed there and the man was taken into custody with the help of a Taser, officials said.
Police went back inside the burning building and found Shirley Owen between the home and the garage with "clear evidence of blunt-force trauma," Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey said. Firefighters pronounced her dead at the scene.
In court later in the day, Brendon Owen, who lives in East Bridgewater, pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, home invasion, kidnapping, arson and assault and battery causing serious bodily injury. A judge ordered him held without bail; he is due back in court Jan. 19.
Franklin last had a murder case 24 years ago, Morrissey said.
Shirley Owen's mother was taken to a hospital and survived. The couple's children weren't in the dwelling at the time.
The House Fire
The incident was first reported by police as a fire, and the blaze quickly consumed the home. Investigators would later say that it was a case of arson.
Brendon Owen was allegedly seen spraying lighter fluid on the home, then lighting a match, when officers arrived.
History of Domestic Violence
The couple's two children are safe, officials said, but the family had a history of domestic violence. The parents got divorced about five years ago, but Shirley Owen had a restraining order in place before then.
"The family's been known to us for the past seven years, off and on," Franklin Police Chief Steve Patterson said, which includes an active restraining order that authorities were looking into.
Brendon Owen was recently accused of violating the restraining order and he had a court date in January in the case.
The police chief described the incident as isolated, though tragic, and said that he thinks the holidays can place added strain on already troubled relationships.
"I would remind anyone reading who may feel unsafe in their relationship that the Commonwealth’s 24-hours SafeLink domestic violence hotline is a resource available 24 hours a day for anyone affected by domestic or dating violence. That toll-free number is 877-785-2020," Morrissey wrote in a press release Wednesday.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HELP: Massachusetts provides this list of national, statewide and local resources for victims of domestic violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233. Anyone who is in immediate danger or knows someone who is is urged to call 911.