While the case against Jeremy Owens, 32, who has admitted to shooting and killing his 74-year-old grandmother, Bernice Champlin, has moved to Laurel Circuit Court following his indictment Friday on a murder charge, Commonwealth’s Attorney
Jackie Steele said he has not yet determined whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty in the case.
"There are still a couple of things I am waiting on," Steele said Monday, without going into details.
When he has that information, Steele may then file a motion with the court announcing the intention to seek the death penalty.
Under Kentucky Law, the death penalty may only be sought if there are aggravating circumstances in a case such as the commission of another crime including: first-degree arson, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, first degree rape or first-degree sodomy; the murder is committed by a person who has a prior conviction for a capital offense or who has a substantial history of serious assaultive convictions; a murder is committed for money or profit; or the murder of a victim who is under the protection of an emergency protective order, domestic violence order or any other order designed to protect the victim from the murderer.
Laurel County Sheriff’s Public Affairs Officer Gilbert Acciardo said there is nothing to indicate any other charges may be brought against Owens such as burglary, that Owens does not have any criminal history and that Champlin was not under any type of protective order.
As to a motive for the murder, Acciardo said Monday that investigators learned nothing from Owens, nor through their investigation that began July 27 when Owens shot Champlin once with a .38-caliber revolver, stabbed her multiple times and beat her, as to why he killed her.
Two days prior to the incident, Owens had posted on his Facebook page, "Mamaw needs to die."
Jeremy Owens’ brother, Joshua, told investigators that Champlin and Jeremy had been arguing, but Acciardo said investigators have not learned what the argument was about or if that may have led up to the murder.
In addition, Laurel County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Greg Poynter, who transported Owens to jail after he was taken into custody, reported that Owens told him that he had been pushed over the edge and couldn’t take it anymore. However, Owens never explained to investigators what he meant by that.
"It is one of those things where we may never know exactly what led up the incident," Acciardo said.
Jeremy Owens called Joshua soon after incident and told him that he had killed Champlin. He then barricaded himself inside Champlin’s home and refused to come out.
After several minutes, Laurel County Sheriff John Root talked Owens into surrendering himself.
Deputies found Champlin’s body in the hallway of the home. When questioned about the incident during Owens’ preliminary hearing in Laurel District Court, Laurel County Sheriff’s Detective Billy Madden said Jeremy Owens said he had been in a fight and struggled with Champlin before blacking out. When he woke up, he was draped over her body with the gun in his hand.
Autopsy reports indicated Champlin had died from a gunshot wound to the head.
Owens pleaded not guilty to the charge at his arraignment Friday and will return to Laurel Circuit Court Oct. 21 for a pretrial hearing. He remains in the Laurel County Detention Center on a $250,000 cash bond. Judge John Knox Mills is presiding over the case.
Though Owens has admitted to killing Champlin, Steele said there have been no discussions concerning a plea agreement.