The murder trial of a former Nome police officer began yesterday, almost a year and a half after a 19-year-old woman was shot to death, her body found at an abandoned gold mine...
NOME, Alaska — The murder trial of a former Nome police officer began yesterday, almost a year and a half after a 19-year-old woman was shot to death, her body found at an abandoned gold mine.
Matthew Clay Owens, 29, is charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the August 2003 death of Sonya Ivanoff.
In his opening statement in Nome Superior Court, prosecutor Richard Svobodny said Owens, a police officer at the time, committed the murder and a few weeks later staged the theft of a patrol vehicle, where an ominous note addressed to police was found.
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Defense attorney James McComas argued that others were potential suspects.
The prosecution is hinging its case largely on the fact that no trace evidence was found. Svobodny said this points toward the killer having “evidence awareness,” or being somebody trained in police work.
Svobodny said two witnesses saw Ivanoff getting into what they thought was a police car on the night of her disappearance. According to the prosecutor, Owens knew about the disappearance before Ivanoff was even reported missing by her roommate.
Ivanoff was found naked, except for one sock, on the outskirts of Nome. She died of a single gunshot wound fired at close range to the back of her head. Owens was charged in October 2003.
The state maintained that a shell casing and .22-caliber bullet recovered from Ivanoff’s head match a gun to which Owens had access. The defense said during opening statements that the bullet doesn’t match the gun.
Then the prosecution went into details about the patrol-car theft. Owens is accused of stealing the vehicle while on duty, smashing the rear window and leaving it in a gravel pit.
The point was to divert attention from himself as a murder suspect, according to prosecutors. Authorities say Owens later claimed that he found the reportedly stolen car and was shot at.
Later a note was found in the car, confessing to the murder and stating that it was easy to steal the police car.
McComas told the jurors that Owens did not stage the theft — and he didn’t kill Ivanoff, either.
The defense mostly pointed to other possible suspects within the police force, as well as acquaintances of Ivanoff’s.
The trial is to resume today with the first prosecution witness.