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Murder charge filed against suspect

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Authorities release the name of the person reported missing

UPDATED FEB. 12 — The 30-year-old Woodlawn man and suspect in the Feb. 8 shooting case now faces charges of first-degree murder and use of a firearm, according to the Carroll Sheriff's Department.

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Jesse James Owens was formally charged Tuesday after a Monday autopsy of the victim, according to sheriff's office personnel. Deputies expect to file an additional charge involving the attempt to hide the body.

The autopsy revealed the cause of the victim's death was a shot to the head.

Investigators have taken samples of blood found in the suspect vehicle for DNA testing. The results may provide evidence that the blood in the vehicle belonged to the victim.

Owens appeared in Carroll General District Court Monday on initial charges of possession of a firearm and ammunition. The court appointed Jonathan Venzie as defense attorney. 

HILLSVILLE — Authorities expect a murder charge to be filed after the body of an approximately 49-year-old woman with signs of head trauma has been found in Cana Saturday. As Carroll deputies continued to search for the victim of a shooting reported in the Woodlawn area Friday night, information kept coming into the sheriff's department, according to Sheriff J.B. Gardner. After a third party reported a shooting at 90 Boot Jack Drive Friday, authorities on Saturday received information that a woman had not showed up for her shift at Burger King.

Authorities tell The Gazette the person reported missing is Delphie Willey. Later in Saturday evening, a person walking on Holly Ridge Road, a private road off of Brushy Fork, informed deputies that a body had been found. The body lay right on the edge of Holly Ridge in some grass, not far from the intersection of Brushy Fork. The body will go to the medical examiner's office in Roanoke for an autopsy Monday. The person had signs of a head wound and lost a lot of blood at Holly Ridge Road. Gardner did not identify the victim, pending a positive identification and the notification of family. Deputies have recovered a rifle at 90 Boot Jack Drive. Gardner believes the finding of the victim and the results of the autopsy could lead to a murder charge being placed. A 30-year-old man identified at Jesse James Owens remains in custody Saturday. The resident of the home on Boot Jack Drive, Owens, 30, has been charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon. This investigation began at 9:30 p.m. Friday after authorities received a report of a possible shooting at the Boot Jack Drive residence. Carroll County deputies searched for a gray Chevrolet long bed pickup with a camper shell on the back. "Deputies arrived at the residence and found evidence that indicated that someone had been injured in the home and removed," according to a news release from the sheriff's office. Hillsville police officers located the vehicle in question on Virginia Street in town. Deputies have collected samples of blood from the Boot Jack Drive area, as well as from the pick up, Gardner told The Gazette. Deputies have also taken Owens' clothes into evidence. "He's not saying anything and he's asking for an attorney," the sheriff said of Owens. The witness who reported the incident to the authorities did not know the name of the female victim, Gardner said. From the information supplied by the witness, there was almost a two-hour gap from the report of the shooting and the location of the vehicle — there might have been as much as two hours to hide the body, the sheriff noted. Owens had previously been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence in a July 5, 2004, accident that caused the death of a 24-year-old woman, Gardner confirmed. Owens remains in custody at the New River Valley Regional Jail.