Georgia prosecutor drops charges in 2017 triple slaying

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped murder charges against a man jailed since 2017 in the slayings of a coastal Georgia couple and their grandson.

Keith Higgins, district attorney for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, said he decided not to move forward with a trial for Roger Lee Owens after a witness’s statement to investigators significantly changed and a knife that police initially said Owens dropped at the scene was later found to have belonged to one of the victims.

“Based upon that, we felt there was insufficient evidence against Owens in the matter,” Higgins told The Brunswick News.

Carson Holliman Sr., 64, and his wife, 63-year-old Vondell Holliman, were found shot to death in their Brunswick home along with their 24-year-old grandson, Christopher Holliman. Members of their church called police after they failed to show up for Sunday services in June 2017.

Police arrested Owens on murder charges about four months later. They said the Hollimans appeared to have been slain during a botched home invasion.

Higgins’ office filed a court motion to drop the case against Owens on Friday, and he was released from jail.

Michael A. Schwartz, Owens’ defense attorney, credited new prosecutors who took over the case this year with making “the honorable and correct decision to drop the case.” Higgins became the circuit’s top prosecutor in January after defeating then-District Attorney Jackie Johnson in the November election.

“The evidence always pointed to Roger Owens’ innocence, though questionable behavior by former prosecutors kept him in pretrial detention for years,” Schwartz said in an emailed statement.

Higgins noted that there is no statute of limitations for bringing a murder case in Georgia and said he’s willing to pursue charges again if new evidence comes to light.

Brunswick police Chief Kevin Jones said it’s too early to say whether his officers will reopen their investigation.

“It is our job to find probable cause and make arrests,” Jones said. “It is his job to determine if there is enough there to prosecute the case. We respect his decision if he does or does not feel comfortable doing that.”

Police previously said Owens often stayed with relatives who were neighbors of the Hollimans and he may have intended to target someone else in the neighborhood but broke into the Hollimans’ home by mistake.

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