Reliving Heartbreak; Appreciating Our Officers

Duane Owen at the time of his arrest.

Duane Owen today. Photo courtest Florida Department of Corrections.

The name Duane Owen is back in the news.

If you’ve been around Boca-Delray since the 80s, that name may ring a bell and give you pause.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a death warrant for the convicted murderer last week and the date for execution is June 15.

Owen murdered Karen Slattery, 14, while she was babysitting in Delray Beach almost 40 years ago. I wasn’t living in Delray Beach back then, but when I arrived a few years later people were still talking about the tragedy and the murder of 35-year-old Georgianna Worden, a mother of two in Boca Raton who was also brutally killed by Owen. The community had been traumatized by the crimes which were savage in nature. Those scars remain.

As a reporter, I got to know Karen’s father Eugene who became a victim’s right advocate and devoted the rest of his life to the memory of his daughter. Mr. Slattery would die in a plane crash at age 58 in June 1989. He was flying a homemade single engine plane when it crashed on Hypoluxo Road just west of I-95. Once again, the community was shocked, but Mr. Slattery’s advocacy lived on.

He had raised $50,000 for a reward leading to the arrest of Karen’s killer. While the reward was never claimed, the money was used to fund the Karen Slattery Education Research Center at FAU. A student at Pope John Paul II High School, Karen’s 1987 class memorialized her by planting a tree in her honor on campus. I think the tree is still there.

I also got to know the detective who worked the case, Rick Lincoln.

Rick was a lieutenant at the time and would rise to interim chief before becoming the number two official at the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office.

Rick would talk about the case during Citizen Police Academies and often referred to it as the worst crime scene he had ever seen.

After an extensive investigation by Delray and Boca police, Owen was arrested.  He seemed to delight in teasing detectives with bits of information. He admitted to a flashing charge at FAU and some burglaries but was mum on the murders.

Instead, he would dangle bits of information. He wrote vile poems for the detectives.

“Roses are red, you pigs are blue, if you count up my victims, there’ll be quite a few.”

But the game ended when police found a single fingerprint at the Worden home. Owen was careful, using his socks to cover his hands but they found that one print. He would later be tied to other violent crimes including a rape at a motel in Boca.

Even after the fingerprint tied him to the Worden murder, he refused to admit to killing Karen Slattery. A few days later he finally confessed.

He has spent the ensuing decades fighting the death sentence. Those appeals lasted more than twice as long as Karen Slattery’s short life. Such is the system….

Around this time, I was covering a lot of police stories. I spent hours on “ride-alongs” with our Tactical Team who were battling street-level drug sales in Delray. I also tagged along on midnight warrant sweeps and sat in the back of cruisers while Field Training Officers were working with rookies. I developed a great respect for the men and women in blue.

I also interviewed several criminals including murderers, traveling to prisons all over the state. I made a few attempts to interview Owen, for what in hindsight, I can’t tell you. You are not going to gain any insights, only excuses. You stare into empty eyes.

But I did learn a lot from the cops I came to know. Some were hard lessons about how people can be so cruel to each other. Our police officers and firefighters see so much. But while these images are seared into their brains, they still have a desire to serve and protect.


It’s not for the money—because they don’t make much, especially if you consider the job they are tasked with. The risks are enormous, the toll is both physical and emotional. The job isn’t getting any easier as we invent ways to hurt each other.

Still, the best officers care…a lot.

Rick Lincoln cared.  I admired him and so many others along the way.

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to a local detective. We talked about how far Delray has come.

I told him what I tell others: the Delray Beach Police Department made it safe for people to invest here and therefore we can thank our officers for Delray’s revival. That doesn’t mean there isn’t crime…there is. But I think we have a great Police Department. A great Fire-Rescue department as well. I feel safe here. Along the way, we made an investment in these departments, and they have served us well. We must continue to invest in public safety.

Still, when I see the mug shot of Duane Owen I am reminded of the evil in this world. I’m reminded of the damage they do to generations. And I am reminded that communities have scars. Eventually we heal and life goes on, but the scars remain. The painful memories linger.

Let’s be grateful for the men and women who devote their lives to ensuring that justice is served.



  1. Lainie Lewis says

    I remember that monster. Our little “Village by the Sea” had never experienced anything like him before. The Delray PD never stopped working this case. Total commitment.
    Thank you!

  2. Darcy Lynn Tyson says

    Great article Jeff.. my dad was the one who found Duane’s fingerprint in the book the victim was reading. Great job by all involved in solving the murders. Too bad “Old Sparky” isn’t used anymore…

  3. Paul Zacks says

    Jeff, I spent most of my 37 year prosecutorial career handling cases of death row inmates on behalf of the State of Florida. The inmates varied in their circumstances … some were out of control addicts, some were motivated by jealousy or money. But some, like Owen, were just truly evil sociopaths with no regard for other humans and were simply motivated by their own sexual or violent impulses. Although it has taken too long, hopefully justice will finally be served on the 15th.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Thabnks for sharing Paul. What a career, you had. You’ve seen it all and then some. Here’s hoping for justice on the 15th.

  4. I got to know Rick and his wife Linda and the terrible toll it took on the city. I eventually worked for Linda and admired Rick’s continued police expertise.
    I hope this execution brings closure for everyone.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      I’m praying for the family. I saw Rick Lincoln on the news last night. He looked great. But you could tell this case affected him deeply.

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