BOCA RATON, Fla. — It was a grisly murder that shook the city of Boca Raton nearly 40 years ago — horrific, brutal and terrorizing.
Sgt. Kevin McCoy, now retired, was at the time the lead detective on a case with the Boca Raton Police Department that would become his most powerful. The case still carries a deep connection with him today.
"Basically, we had to prove circumstantially who she was because she never had her fingerprints taken," McCoy said. "That's how bad she was beaten."
The date was May 28, 1984. The crime happened at a Boca Raton neighborhood.
On that evening, Georgianna Worden, 38, was fast asleep. Her two children, ages 13 and 9, were sleeping in the front bedroom.
"On the northeast side of the house is where her bedroom is, and he could look through the window and saw her there, and so he was intent on getting in," McCoy said.
The calm of the night was shattered when Duane Owen prowled and lurked around the home and then broke in — murdering Worden with a hammer.
McCoy often drives by the house where the attack occurred. Each time, the memory of the crime that captivated his life for decades comes into focus and so does the man who he said carried it out.
"He thought he was smart," McCoy said. "He thought he wouldn't make mistakes, but fortunately, he made a couple."
Worden's murder came just weeks after another similar crime — the brutal death of Karen Slattery, 14, in Delray Beach. Immediately, two cases with so many similarities brought two cities and dozens of investigators together. McCoy knew they were on to something.
"That was a big factor was the fact that ... you have a female victim and you have her two children that were left alone, not harmed at all," McCoy said.
Neither of the children, in either case, was touched. It didn't take long for McCoy to use a sketch to help in the investigation. It came from the victim of a nearby indecent exposure case. When McCoy compared it to other cases police were investigating, something struck.
"As soon as we put him in a lineup and started showing them it was like, 'Yeah that's him, that's him,'" McCoy said.
Owen would soon become a prime suspect in Worden's murder.
"He was active in the area within a few blocks of where the homicide was," McCoy said. "He lived not too far from the homicide on the other side of the tracks, so we just started compiling this and ... we just couldn't eliminate him."
An arrest warrant on an unrelated case to Worden's murder was issued for Owen. Now, they just needed him in custody.
Owen was spotted riding a bicycle days later, not far from the Worden crime scene. Once in custody, a series of interviews and questions were unloaded on Owen. It was clear he knew a lot and wasn't shy about talking, according to McCoy.
"It was like once he knew you had him pretty good, he gave it up," McCoy said. "Eventually, he went down through certain other aspects of the crime that only he would know."
A confession in both cases would come, however, not without controversy. He would be retried for Slattery's murder on the basis of the confession.
"In my opinion, there may be more homicides out there," McCoy said. "It's kind of hard to believe it just started with, you know, Karen Slattery."
Both cases are nearing 40 years old and a final chapter in the investigation is about to close. For this former detective who studied it so closely, it will never leave his mind, including the dark secrets that would emerge from it.
"He was the beginning, in my opinion, of a serial killer, because you just don't pick out people like that," McCoy said. "And when you talk to him, he described what he would do. He called it 'going out on maneuvers.' He was a prowler, no relation to any of the victims, was prowling the neighborhood looking into windows, so on so forth, and he would have killed again, no doubt."