Md. mom outraged at early release of her 14-year-old daughter’s killer

The man who killed and allegedly sexually attacked a 14-year-old Maryland girl is getting out of prison Tuesday after serving less than nine years of his 15-year sentence.

Nia Owens was found dead in the woods near Northwestern High School in Hyattsville in 1996. Police said she had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

The crime went unsolved for more than a decade, before DNA linked Matthew Bethea to the crime.

In a plea deal with the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, Bethea pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, a rape charged was dropped and he was sentenced to serve 15 years of a 30-year sentence.

Owens mother, Angela Wood said she was notified recently that Bethea was set to be released Tuesday, after earning credits for good behavior in prison.

“A rapist, a predator, is coming home out of prison, after serving less than nine years,” said Wood, in a news conference with current State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy.

Wood was asked what she would say to Bethea as he walked out of prison early: “How could you? Were you that selfish that you thought that you could just kill my child like stepping on a fly or a roach?”

Braveboy said she understand’s Wood’s outrage.

“Mr. Bethea is now being released, by law, as a result of diminution credits that he accrued,” said Braveboy. “Therefore, the Office of the State’s Attorney could not prevent his release.”

Mother and prosecutor said they will work with legislators in Annapolis to try to change Maryland law.

“To see if we can reduce the amount of credits that these individuals, who are committing very heinous offenses, can seek when they’re incarcerated,” Braveboy said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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