Suspect in elderly woman's murder had prior felony charges

The man accused of robbing and killing an elderly woman in Huntsville last week remains in the Madison County Metro Jail without bond.

27-year-old John Clayton Owens Jr. was arrested and charged with the murder of 91-year-old Doris Richardson on 2200 block of Bide-A-Wee Drive. Neighbors contacted Richardson's daughter on Friday after Richardson failed to pick up her morning paper.

Owens was out of jail despite the fact he had prior felony charges against him. He had even been sentenced to prison three years ago on a ten year stretch.

WAFF 48 news checked into Owen's criminal history and documents showed he pled guilty a few years ago to burglary, criminal mischief, breaking and entering and theft of property. He was given a ten year sentence. Court documents showed he only spent a little over a year in prison. So why was he out of jail?

"The problem in the prison system is that its so overcrowded they are under Federal court orders you cannot keep these people in forever even a lengthy sentence they don't stay in long," said Mark McDaniel, WAFF-48 legal analyst.

McDaniel said those charges could be upgraded to capital murder if investigators determine Owens intentionally killed Richardson during the burglary.

Jameson Milly lives a few doors down from Richardson. He was shaken up by the news of her murder.

"It makes me scared. I do have two small children and a wife here. Very concerning," said Milly.

Milly said he had seen Owens several times sitting in a chair on his front porch with his shirt off. He described Owens demeanor as odd.

Neighbors believe Owens may be responsible for another break-in that happened a short time ago to another elderly neighbor but an arrest was ever made.

In October 2010, Owens was arrested again and charged with two counts of burglary. He pled guilty to one count and the other was thrown out.

The judge ordered Owens to 12 years in prison but suspended the sentence and instead gave him five years probation, which explains why he was out of jail.

McDaniel said along with Owens' prior felonies, if convicted of murder, he could receive to two life sentences. If the charge is upgraded to capital murder, he faces life without parole or the death penalty.

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