CHALMETTE, La. — There were high emotions in St. Bernard Parish Monday as a former corrections officer pleaded guilty to attacking his ex-wife with an ax and killing her.
The September 2017 murder stunned the Chalmette community.
"I have to live with this. It happened in my driveway and every time I look outside or walk outside I see this over and over, every time I close my eyes," Peggy Browning said.
Browning, flanked by family and friends dressed in gray "Stop Domestic Violence" t-shirts gathered on the steps of the parish courthouse shortly after the man accused of killing Kim Penney, her daughter, pleaded guilty to second -degree murder.
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Mark Owens agreed to spend the rest of his life in prison rather than force prosecutors to prove at trial that he waited under Penney's home on Palmetto Street in Chalmette and attacked his ex-wife with an ax as she left for work.
Browning is one of two family members who gave victim impact statements during Monday's plea hearing.
She called Owens a coward and predicted he would burn in hell.
"I hope he rots there," Browning said. "You don't even want to know what I hope happens to him in jail. I hope that every day he's miserable and has to watch over his shoulders."
St. Bernard District Attorney Perry Nicosia released a statement saying, "I am pleased with the conviction and life sentence. It allows the family to move forward without having to relive this horrible crime at trial."
Owens' attorney Cullen Tonry said his client, "Agreed to a plea arrangement to spare Penney's family further grief."
He added, "It's sad — nothing positive could come from this."
Browning claims her daughter would still be alive today had Owens gotten jail time rather than pre-trial diversion in 2015. That's when he was arrested for allegedly holding Penney against her will.
Court records show Owens also had a history of mental illness and had been confined to mental hospitals on multiple occasions.
Browning had a message for women in abusive relationships.
"Just get help," Browning said. "That's all I can say. Just get help. Don't take it from anybody."
Browning also said her daughter was a loving mother, good friend and a good person.
Owens is now expected to serve out his life sentence at the Wade Correction Center in north Louisiana. It has a special unit for ex-law enforcement officers.
(Ramon Vargas from the New Orleans Advocate contributed to this story)