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Search turns up blood trail, other evidence in homicide case

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Police say Jesse James Owens shot a woman and disposed of her body 20 miles away

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — A suspect in a Feb. 8 shooting death might have moved the body, but search warrants show that Carroll County law enforcement found a lot of evidence left behind during their investigation of the crime scene.
Jesse James Owens, 30, of Woodlawn stands accused of first-degree murder and related charges in the death of 45-year-old Delphie Jane Willey.
Owens was formally charged Wednesday after a Feb. 11 autopsy of the victim, according to Carroll County Sheriff’s Office personnel. The autopsy revealed the cause of the victim’s death was a gunshot wound to the head.
Deputies expect to file an additional charge involving the attempt to hide the body.

A third-party witness reported the incident to the authorities. The call said there had been a shooting at a Woodlawn residence.
While the shooting is believed to have occurred at 90 Boot Jack Drive in Woodlawn, authorities found Willey’s body about 20 miles away, on the side of Holly Ridge Road in Cana on Feb. 9, after a report from a pedestrian.
This came after Willey was reported as a missing person when she didn’t show up for her shift at Burger King in Hillsville.
During the course of their investigation, law enforcement sought search warrants for Owens’ home, his truck, the residence in Hillsville where town officers found him and for his person.
Deputies collected several items from Owens’ “white and blue single wide mobile home with an uncovered porch,” the warrants said.
Investigators requested permission from the court to search for “any items that may be used to commit harm i.e. firearms, knives... [and] any physical or trace evidence that may have been left at the scene and any persons or vehicles located on the premises” in the murder case.
Investigators requested the search warrant after Deputy Barry Lineberry responded to the property on the homicide report and noticed several things.
First, Lineberry “located a blood drag trail from a driveway that leads to and upon an open front porch...” according to the court document. The blood trail lead through the open door of the trailer to a “puddle of blood.”
Evidence collected in Woodlawn included:
• a shoe cast
• a tire cast
• swabs taken for DNA testing from the driveway, the front porch, a wooden bench and in the living room
• a .22 caliber round
• shell casings on the porch
• boots
• blood or red dirt sample in driveway
• a board from the front porch
• a .22 rifle in the gun cabinet
• beer cans
• a hair brush
For the search warrant for 209 Virginia Street in Hillsville, where law enforcement officials located Owens, investigators requested permission to search for DNA evidence, personal effects or items that could be related to a homicide, including blood, hair, fibers, trace evidence or weapons.
Investigators also filed a request to search the gray Silverado pickup with farm use tags and deer antlers tied to the front grill area.
From there, authorities collected:
• a Natural light beer can
• a black ball cap
• Brahma boots size 10.5
• a black glove and a camo glove
• a black handled knife
• a red substance
• a black coat
• swabs from different areas of the truck
Investigators also got a search warrant for Owens’ himself, in order to get a DNA sample with a buccal swab, according to the documents.
“Numerous items have been submitted to the state forensics lab as evidence that could have the victim’s and Jesse Owens’ DNA on them,” the warrant says. “The lab needs a known sample via buccal swab from Jesse Owens as verification to their findings.”
DNA testing could provide evidence that the blood in the vehicle and house belonged to Delphie Willey.
Deputies have also taken Owens’ clothes into evidence.
In addition to the murder charge, Owens faces a charge of using a firearm in a felony.
The authorities have held Owens since locating him Feb. 8, on charges of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon.
Owens appeared in Carroll General District Court on Feb. 11 on the firearms violation charge. The court appointed Jonathan Venzie as defense attorney.
Owens remains in custody at the New River Valley Regional Jail.