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Man guilty of murdering Woods Cross woman in 1980

SHARE Man guilty of murdering Woods Cross woman in 1980

FARMINGTON — Many in a 2nd District courtroom gasped audibly as the clerk read aloud the "guilty" verdict Wednesday.

The five-man, three-woman jury determined Edward Lewis Owens was responsible for the brutal strangling death of Karin Strom 29 years ago in her Woods Cross home.

Owens, 58, appeared to gulp and turned slightly toward his attorney, but otherwise he remained expressionless as the verdict was read — guilty of first-degree murder.

Throughout the courtroom, people on both sides wept openly. Patricia Owens, the wife of the defendant, had tears in her eyes. Meanwhile, several members of Strom's family who had long sought to have the case reopened sobbed out loud.

Coco Saltzgiver, the deceased woman's sister, was among the relatives who pushed hardest to get the case revived. She said her family has gone through a hellish time over the years.

"You never forget," Saltzgiver said, weeping. "Time just doesn't heal it. I just want the ugliness of what happened to my sister gone. I want to remember her as the beautiful person she was."

Judge John Morris ordered a presentence report and set May 21 for sentencing.

Saltzgiver said she does not want Owens to die in prison but does want him to spend enough time behind bars to think every day about what he did in 1980 to a vibrant young woman who did not deserve to have her life cut short and in such a brutal way.

"I didn't do this for vengeance," she said of her lobbying law enforcement to reopen the case. "I did it for my sister, out of love."

The jury deliberated approximately nine hours on Tuesday and then again for an hour Wednesday morning before reaching its verdict.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings termed the trial's outcome "satisfying," especially since it could provide some closure for Karin Strom's family and offer justice to a young woman who had been so terribly wronged.

"Ed Owens killed her in 1980, but Karin Strom got him in 2009," Rawlings said. "Her fight for her life resulted in a situation where there were wounds on his hands and face and his DNA was under her fingernails."

Rawlings said he was confident that refiling charges and going to trial was the right thing to do before the case against Owens began a second time. "We know Ed Owens killed Karin Strom and we could prove it."

Michael Studebaker, Owens' attorney, said outside the courtroom that he and his client are weighing all the appeals options they can. Studebaker said in particular he thought the judge erred in not permitting the jury to hear testimony about domestic violence suffered by Karin Strom at the hands of her estranged husband, Steven Strom.

Steven Strom had at one time been a suspect in the case and was charged with his wife's murder, but the charges were later dropped for lack of evidence. Owens also was charged in 2007 and was set to go to trial for the slaying, but prosecutors asked to have the charges dismissed. Owens was then recharged eight months later in 2008.

Karin Strom was 25 when she was killed.

Studebaker, among other things, maintained that Woods Cross police did a "shoddy" job of investigating the crime scene and that the DNA evidence found on Karin Strom's body showed the presence of DNA from both Owens and Steven Strom. However, Studebaker said that the mere presence of DNA did not mean Owens killed Karin Strom.

Prosecutor William McGuire, however, said Owens had the opportunity to commit the crime, told others he was present in the home and had a "confrontation" with Karin Strom — although he said she was alive when he left, and there was plenty of DNA evidence from Owens on the dead woman's body.

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com