CHALMETTE - In the wake of Wednesday's ax murder in St. Bernard, people are asking how a man with a history of violent behavior avoided jail time. Mark Owens previously held his wife, Kim, hostage and threatened to kill a government employee. Owens never faced a harsh punishment until it was too late.
It's a brutal crime that many saw coming. Deputies say after years of physical, violent abuse toward his ex wife, Kim Owens, Mark Owens escalated to the point of killing her with an ax Wednesday morning.
Tania Tetlow, a Tulane law professor, specializing in domestic violence, looked at the facts of the case and concluded it was a predictable pattern that happens far too often.
"Domestic homicides are the most preventable. They are often the ones where the victim has repeatedly come to the system for help and the system has failed her," Tetlow said.
She said that system had multiple opportunities to step in and save Kim Owen's life but consistently let her down. Deputies say in 2014 Owens threatened the former St. Bernard Parish president and attempted to kill himself.
"He was never charged in that incident," St. Bernard Sheriff Jim Pohlmann said.
Tetlow says that should have been a huge red flag.
"One of the biggest risk factors for predicting homicide in these cases is the threat of suicide," Tetlow said.
Then, in 2015 deputies say Mark grabbed Kim and dragged her inside her house where he held her hostage at gun point.
"He was talked out the house and arrested and charged with false imprisonment and simple battery at the time," Pohlmann said.
Owens entered a pre-trial diversion program instead of facing jail time.
"When you're talking about that kind of terrifying act, that's the moment criminal justice has to intervene to keep a woman like this alive," Tetlow said.
Tetlow went on to say Owens continued to escalate without repercussions until it was too late. While justice reform won't save Kim, Tetlow hopes more will be done in the future to protect victims of domestic abuse.
"We very rarely punish this kind of violence" Tetlow said.
Mark Owens made his first court appearance Thursday. He will be held without bond.
We reached out to Owen's brother, Sam. He said "I lost my sister in law, who I loved, and my brother on the same day."