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‘Eats me up every day’: Family left without answers 16 years after woman killed

CHARLOTTE — More than 16 years after Kellie Owens was shot and inside her Charlotte apartment, her family is healing from the trauma of losing her while celebrating her legacy.

Kellie Owens had a love for children. After all, she was a mother and worked for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as a counselor for at-risk youth.

“She would have these kids following her down the hallway. They loved her,” said Linda Owens-McHone, the victim’s mother.

Channel 9′s Glenn Counts met Owens-McHone, Kellie’s cousin Jasmine Chestnut, and her best friend Svenya Nimmons at the apartment where Owens was killed.

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“Probably one of the hardest days of my life,” Nimmons said.

“I just shut down,” said James Owens, Kellie’s father. “I mean my whole body, my mind -- just shut down.”

Counts met James Owens at Charlotte Memorial Gardens, which is where his daughter is buried.

“I go walking, which I do all the time to try and release some of the tension and depression,” he said. “But really, it eats me up every day.”

Death

December was always a special month for Kellie Owens. She was born in December, so she would celebrate her birthday and of course Christmas. But Christmas of 2007 would be her last. She was killed two days later.

Matt Hefner is an investigator with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s cold case unit.

“Was living in an apartment, she had a 2-year-old child. The 911 call came in from her boyfriend at the time,” he said.

He said the 30-year-old woman was found shot to death in her bathroom. There was no sign of forced entry into Owens’ apartment.

“The light was off in the bathroom, so it would be easy to assume she fled there when this was going on,” Hefner said. “That was the last place she could get to. She was ultimately shot in that bathroom and found there by her boyfriend.”

Trauma leads to legacy

For 16 years, the case has gone unsolved. The only witness was someone who obviously would have been too young to help: The victim’s 2-year-old daughter.

“It was not common for the child to be left in the crib,” Hefner said. “It’s just that, my children were that way, they didn’t like being in the crib. And this child was the same, so to find the child in the crib crying would be unusual. It’s not somewhere Kellie would have likely put this child.”

While Counts was given toddler pictures, the family wants to protect the privacy of the now 18-year-old young woman. Her mother’s death is a sensitive subject.

“That’s not a good topic for her, but me personally, I never discuss it with her,” James Owens said. “I want her to bring it up and she never does, not one time.”

Despite a traumatic start to her life, Kellie Owens’ daughter is thriving. She has a full academic scholarship to North Carolina A&T University and is studying to become a doctor.

“She has the same drive that her mother had. That’s my consolation right there,” James Owens said.

“I’m so proud of her,” said Linda Owens-McHone. “She’s in college right now, got a four-year scholarship.”

Unanswered questions

Solving Owens’ murder has been a challenge. Police had a suspect in the case but not enough evidence to make an arrest.

“The physical evidence in this case does not help us get any closer to making an arrest,” Hefner said.

What investigators need is for someone to talk.

“It’s time to come forward,” Jasmine Chestnut said. “It’s been 17 years too long and you should put yourself in our shoes and think, what if this was your family member?”

An arrest wouldn’t bring back Kellie Owens, but it would ease the burden her family has felt for the last 16 years.

“I know I would go out of the way to make sure she was safe on a regular basis,” her father said. “But it’s still inside my head -- that I failed as a father, that I let her down.”

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