Mark Owens

Mark Owens 

A Chalmette man was indicted this week on a charge of first-degree murder in connection with the brutal ax killing of his ex-wife in September, but it's not clear whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

St. Bernard Parish District Attorney Perry Nicosia said a grand jury charged Mark Owens, 56, in connection with the death of his ex-wife, Kim Penney Owens.

Mark Owens was also charged with attempted murder in connection with an attack on Kim Owens’ mother, Nicosia said.

“I’m pleased with the first-degree murder indictment," he said in a statement. "This was a horrifying murder of an ex-wife with an ax and the attempted murder of her mother.” 

Owens is being held without bail. First-degree murder can carry a death sentence or life in prison in Louisiana, but Nicosia did not say whether he is seeking the death penalty.

Mark and Kim Owens separated in 2014 after almost a decade of marriage. Those close to Kim Owens said they long feared that her ex-husband would harm her. Mark Owens entered a diversion program after one incident that happened while the couple was married.

The Sheriff's Office said he committed the murder on the morning of Sept. 27. Hiding under his ex-wife's home in the 3100 block of Palmetto Street, he waited until she was leaving the house for work, officials said. Then he emerged and came at her with an ax, they said. 

Kim Owens’ mother screamed as the attack unfolded, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Officials have not said exactly how Mark Owens threatened her, but she managed to escape and call 911, Sheriff James Pohlmann said.

Mark Owens escaped from the scene before deputies arrived but later turned himself in at a Sheriff's Office substation on Paris Road.

The incident was one of the most violent in recent memory in St. Bernard Parish, which typically sees only one or two homicides a year.

Mark Owens’ brother, Sam Owens, said shortly after the killing that his brother had attempted suicide twice after his divorce.

Sam Owens said his older brother called him while he was still at large on the day of the killing.

"He said, 'The demons made me do it,' " Sam Owens said. "He said, 'I'm sorry I did it. But I did it.' "

Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge. | (504) 636-7432