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Stay of execution for Duane Owen denied by Palm Beach County circuit judge

Judge Jeffrey Gillen says request to halt scheduled execution 'premature,' court 'without jurisdiction'
Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen during hearing for Duane Owen, May 18, 2023
Posted at 8:26 PM, May 19, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A South Florida judge has denied a motion seeking a stay of execution for a man convicted of killing and sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl and a mother of two in separate Palm Beach County attacks nearly 40 years ago.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen on Friday issued his written order denying the stay of execution sought by attorneys for Duane Owen.

The 62-year-old death row prisoner is set to be executed next month for the 1984 murders of Karen Slattery and Georgianna Worden.

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Owen broke into a Delray Beach home in March 1984 and attacked Slattery, 14, while she was babysitting. Slattery was repeatedly stabbed and sexually assaulted.

Two months later, Owen broke into a Boca Raton home, where he beat Worden to death with a hammer and sexually assaulted her. The 38-year-old mother's body was found by her two children the next morning.

Owen was arrested that same year and confessed to the crimes. He was later convicted of first-degree murder and sexual battery with a deadly weapon for both crimes and sentenced to death.

Attorneys for Owen had filed several motions seeking to halt the impending execution to allow for a determination of his competency and conduct an evidentiary hearing on the matter.

However, Gillen said during a case management conference Thursday afternoon that he didn't find an evidentiary hearing to be "necessary or warranted."

In his written order, Gillen ruled that the request for a stay of execution "is premature" and that the court "is without jurisdiction."

Gillen explained that, under the Florida rule of criminal procedure, a stay of execution based on insanity "shall not be entertained" by any court until the governor "has held appropriate proceedings for determining the issue."

Furthermore, after the governor has made a decision, any subsequent motion to stay must be filed in the circuit court in which the execution is set to take place.

"As the Governor has not made a determination of sanity and Palm Beach County is not the Circuit in which the execution is to take place, this relief must be denied," Gillen wrote.

A death warrant signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis has Owen scheduled to die by lethal injection June 15. He'll become just the third person convicted of murder in Palm Beach County to be executed by the state.

If you have any information regarding the 2007 crimes with ties to the Town Center at Boca Raton, call Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County at 800-458-TIPS. Tipsters could be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. You can remain anonymous.

You can also contact the detectives assigned to these cold cases using the information below:

Detective Scott Hanley
Boca Raton Police Department
shanley@myboca.us
561-338-1344

Detective William Springer
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office
springerw@pbso.org
561-688-4013