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Sir Mario Owens sentenced to death

He murdered Javad Marshall-Fields and Vivian Wolfe in 2005

Published December 8, 2008 at 11:05 a.m.

Christine Wolfe,mother of Vivian Wolfe, gets a hug following the sentencing hearing for Sir Mario Owens at the Arapahoe County Courthouse in Centennial, Colo.  Owens got the death penalty for the murders of Javad Marshall Fields and Vivian Wolfe.

Photo by Matt McClain

Christine Wolfe,mother of Vivian Wolfe, gets a hug following the sentencing hearing for Sir Mario Owens at the Arapahoe County Courthouse in Centennial, Colo. Owens got the death penalty for the murders of Javad Marshall Fields and Vivian Wolfe.

Just before a judge sentenced him to death, Sir Mario Owens looked at the mothers of his two victims and grinned.

The chilling gesture riveted the Arapahoe County courtroom Monday.

"This defendant coldly, calculatingly and completely without conscience or a scintilla of mercy or remorse murdered two young people," Arapahoe County Assistant District Attorney John Howard said as he urged the judge to impose the death penalty.

"Sir Mario Owens has inflicted enough anguish and grief on our community," he added.

In 2005, Owens gunned down Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, as they sat in their car at an Aurora intersection.

Family members of the dead sweethearts, both 22, hugged as Arapahoe County Judge Gerald Rafferty imposed two death sentences, one for each victim. The judge added 65 years of imprisonment for other charges, including conspiracy to commit murder.

"This has devastated our lives. It has destroyed our lives," Christine Wolfe, Vivian's mother, said after the sentencing. "Every time I come into the courtroom I'm so angry, I want him to pay."

Owens, 23, wearing gold-rim glasses, remained mostly stone- faced as the judge announced his fate.

But the victims' mothers said they were stunned when Owens changed his expression only to grin at them as they recounted their agonizing losses in court.

Rafferty stayed the death sentence pending the normal review that the Colorado Supreme Court makes in all capital cases.

Owens was found guilty in May on two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe, who had graduated from Colorado State University just weeks before they were killed.

The judge affirmed the trial jury's June recommendation that Owens die for his crime.

Prosecutors said the slayings were particularly heinous because they were carried out days before Marshall-Fields was to testify against Owens and Robert Ray for killing his buddy during a July 4, 2004, rap music party at Aurora's Lowry Park.

Ray, accused of being Owens' accomplice in the murders, faces the death penalty in a trial scheduled for mid-February.

Despite the brazen slaying of the eyewitness, Owens was convicted and received a life-without- parole sentence for gunning down 20-year-old Gregory Vann at the park.

Rhonda Marshall-Fields, mother of Javad Marshall-Fields, spoke bluntly during the 15 minutes Rafferty allowed each victims' family to address the court.

She said 15 minutes was not enough.

She said she went to Mount Olivet Cemetery, where the two young people are buried side by side, to stand by her son's grave and ponder how she could sum up his memory, his stolen promise, in just minutes.

"Fifteen minutes to me minimizes the pain and harm caused by the crime," she said. "It seems unfair, because the loss is so great.

"It took 15 minutes to get to the crime scene, to push my way through.

"It took 15 minutes to read the T-shirt that said 'Dead men don't talk,' " which the killers threw down at the murder scene.

"It took 15 minutes to wake up from a nightmare, watching Ja vad and Vivian in a car with their eyes wide open, sitting in a pool of blood, crying for help."

Owens will become the second inmate on Colorado's death row, joining Nathan Dunlap, who was sentenced to death in 1996 for murdering four people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant in 1994.

Dunlap, now 34, is appealing the penalty in U.S. District Court.

Monica Owens, mother of Sir Mario Owens, has said the verdict will be appealed.

The judge said Owens will remain at the Arapahoe County Jail for a week while he and his attorneys consider a possible appeal.

The judge said he would allow Owens to receive visits in jail from his family. Until now, he has been denied phone privileges and visits.

The victims' families cried foul, saying Owens should be stripped of all his rights.

"He's simply no more than a walking dead man now, looking to take up space," said Mike Prosser, Wolfe's stepfather.

Life on death row

* There is no area at the Canon City prison reserved for inmates facing the death penalty. They are housed alongside other prisoners. An inmate under a death sentence is confined to an individual cell 23 hours a day. An inmate showers and exercises in the remaining hour.

* Breakfast is served from 5:30-6 a.m.; lunch from 11 to 11:30 a.m.; dinner from 4:30-5 p.m.

* A death row inmate is allowed 21/2 hours of visitation weekly in a setting that does not allow physical contact. He can furnish his cell with a TV, radio, two books, newspapers and magazines.

* An inmate can check out materials from the prison library and the law library. An inmate who fulfills requirements for education and other programs can watch movies shown by prison authorities.

About the death penalty

* Colorado conducted its first execution in 1890, when Noverto Griego was hanged for murder.

* 45 men were put to death by hanging until 1933, when the state switched to the gas chamber.

* Thirty-two men died in Colorado's gas chamber between 1933 and 1967. No woman has been executed in Colorado.

* Lethal injection replaced the gas chamber in 1967.

* The U.S. Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972, then overturned that decision in 1976. The Colorado legislature revised state laws in 1984 to reinstate the death penalty.

* Gary Lee Davis, who kidnapped Virginia May from her farmhouse near Byers and murdered her in July 1986, was executed in 1997. He was the first man put to death in Colorado in 30 years and the only one to die in Colorado by injection. Davis is the last man to have been executed on Colorado's death row.

* There now will be two men on death row at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City. Sir Mario Owens joins Nathan Dunlap, who murdered four people in connection with the robbery of an Aurora Chuck E Cheese in 1993. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Dunlap's appeal. The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld the conviction three times. Dunlap's case is under appeal before a U.S. District Court.

What's next? *

Sir Mario Owens is scheduled to die by injection the week of March 15-21.

* The judge stayed his sentence pending the normal review the Colorado Supreme Court makes in all capital cases. The review could take months or years.

* Next Monday, Owens will have his formal death sentence advisement. At that time he will make a decision regarding attorney representation for an appeal.

* For now, he will remain in the Arapahoe County jail, awaiting transfer to the penitentiary in Canon City.

* Owens' family has previously said the verdict will be appealed. Any appeal will be heard by the state Supreme Court.

* Owens' alleged accomplice, Robert Ray, faces the death penalty in a trial scheduled for mid-February.

Timeline in Owens case

* July 4, 2004: Gregory Vann, 20, is shot to death after a July 4 party at Lowry Park in Aurora. Vann's brother and friend Javad Marshall-Fields chase the gunman and are wounded as they try to catch him. Police focus on Robert Ray and Sir Mario Owens as suspects.

* June 20, 2005: Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, are shot and killed in Aurora, one week before Marshall-Fields is scheduled to testify in Ray's murder trial.

* Nov. 6, 2005: Owens is arrested in Shreveport, La., on a first-degree murder charge in Vann's death.

* Dec. 29, 2005: After fighting extradition, Owens makes an appearance in Arapahoe County Court on the Vann murder charge.

* March 9, 2006: Owens and Ray are charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe. DNA gathered at the scene of the murders matches that of Owens.

* Nov. 4, 2006: Jury finds Robert Ray guilty of attempted first-degree murder and accessory to murder in Vann's death. He gets 108 years.

* Jan. 30, 2007: Owens is convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Vann and sentenced to life in prison. Owens also is convicted on two counts of attempted second- degree murder for shooting at Marshall-Fields and Vann's brother when they tried to stop him from fleeing the scene of the July 4, 2004, violence at Lowry Park.

* May 14, 2008: Jury finds Owens guilty of seven counts in the Marshall-Fields and Wolfe case.

* June 16, 2008: Jury decides to sentence Owens to death.

* Dec. 9, 2008: Judge affirms jury's death-sentence recommendation, setting March execution date.

* February 2009: Ray scheduled for death penalty trial as accused accomplice.

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