NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A St. Bernard Parish man accused of killing his ex-wife with a hatchet pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Monday (April 22) and was ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Mark Owens hid under the woman’s home on Sept. 27, 2017 with the ax and killed Kimberly Penney as she left her Chalmette house to go to work.
Penney’s mother Peggy Browning witnessed the whole thing. When Browning tried to intervene, Mark Owens attacked her, too. Penney died before help could arrive.
“He took her from our whole family. It’s something that we have to live with. And the way he took her is devastating to us, and I watched it happened." Browning said. "Yes, I have to live with this. It happened in my driveway and every time I walk outside, I see this over and over.”
Mark Owens later turned himself in to police.
Penney’s family filled the courtroom on Monday to hear his guilty plea, many of them wearing shirts demanding justice for the Kimberly. Her mother and sister both spoke in open court before Owens was sentenced and described her as a wonderful person.
“She was a good friend. She was a good person. Anybody that knew her, knew she was a good person,” Browning said.
During her impact statement, Browning told Owens he is a coward.
“You took Kim from her child," she said. "Who does that but an evil monster?”
The fatal encounter wasn’t the first time Owens and Penney were involved in a domestic incident. According to court documents, Owens had been detained in the past for trying to commit suicide and accusing Penney of cheating on him -- which she always denied.
In 2015, Owens was accused of dragging Kimberly into a home and holding her hostage. A restraining order against Owens was terminated in December of 2016. Browning said those incidents should have been enough for the courts to keep her daughter safe from him.
“My daughter was held hostage in my house, and I just feel like they dropped the ball on that because he was let out," Browning said. “And they put him in a diversion program that I don’t believe he was eligible for.”
Browning said she believes what happened to her daughter should serve as a reminder about the serious problem of domestic abuse facing the community. Additionally, Browning had a message for anyone being abused.
“Please, anybody that puts up with that, get help. There are doors that are always open,” Browning said. “They’re all over the state. Anyone that needs it, get help. That’s all I could say.”
District Attorney Perry Nicosia said he is pleased with Owen’s conviction and sentence.
“It allows the family to move forward without having to relive this horrible crime at trial,” Perry said.