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Matthew John Owen, who went by the name M. John Owen, was found dead on the kitchen floor of his 107 Gas Light Ct. SW home in Cedar Rapids on Friday morning, January 18, 2013.
Police discovered the 90-year-old’s body after a neighbor called to report Owen’s front door open.
According to Chief State Medical Examiner Dr. Julia Goodin, Owen died of multiple blunt-force injuries.
Police Chief Wayne Jerman said authorities believe Owen knew the person who killed him.
“Our investigators firmly believe that this was not a random act,” Jerman said in news release issue the Wednesday after Owen’s death.
Owen, who lived alone, had resided in Washington County prior to moving to Cedar Rapids and had purchased the quarter-million dollar house across from Kirkwood Community College just two months before his murder, according to a Gazette article dated Jan. 30, 2013.
The Gazette also reported that between the time Owen moved in and the day of his death, police made seven visits to the house; officers investigated reports of two burglaries, two thefts, a suspicious person, and also made two welfare checks. Jewelry, cash and a television were reported stolen, according to police reports. No arrests were ever made.
Investigators initially had no motive, but a Gazette investigation uncovered a number of factors that may have led to Owen’s death.
According to a report published Feb. 3, 2013 by the Gazette’s Jeff Raasch, Owen often bragged about his finances, was known to wear tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry on his hands, and even boasted of spending $4,000 on the oxygen machine that kept him alive.
Raash’s article also stated:
The only thing Owen talked about as much as his money was women, according to multiple sources. Court records and interviews indicate Owen had relationships with at least six women between the ages of 18 and 23 in the months leading up to his death.
“He wanted to feel like Hugh Hefner,” an 18-year-old former stripper told The Gazette. “That’s who he wanted to be. He loved going out with young women.”
Owen had married his third wife, Ruth, in 1956, and after 52 years of marriage, filed for divorce in May 2009 while Ruth was in a nursing home.
Ruth died about six months later, before the divorce was finalized.
An estate battle followed, and showed that Owen had withdrawn at least $150,000 from joint accounts without Ruth’s knowledge and deposited the money into an account only Owen and his son could access.
The Gazette said Owen continued to lead a lavish lifestyle in the three years after his wife’s death.
During that time period, a number of individuals — some who asked the Gazette not to identify them as sources due to fear of retribution — conveyed the following information about the octogenarian:
The Gazette said that, according to multiple sources, Owen used cash to purchase the $250,000 house on a quiet cul-de-sac, became a regular at Woody’s Show Club and was known there by name.
The night before Owen’s murder, one young woman told the Gazette she and her 2-year-old niece were at Owen’s house the night before he was found dead. She said they were eating Chinese food when Owen got a call from a young man he knew. Wrote Raasch:
According to the 18-year-old woman, the young man told Owen he had the stolen jewelry. She said Owen had arranged to pay the young man to get the jewelry back. The woman said the caller told Owen he was coming over to the house and to be home alone.
“We didn’t even get to finish eating our meal,” the woman said. “He told us to go, and then I didn’t hear nothing from him.”
The woman returned to the house the next morning and found a crime scene.
Chief Jerman said he had no knowledge that Owen was ever involved in any illegal activity in Cedar Rapids, and while alluding to the case’s depth, declined to answer specific questions posed by the Gazette.
“All cases are unique, and they need to be treated that way,” Jerman said in the Feb. 3, 2013 story. “This case has some uniqueness to it.”
Owen’s grandson, Brandon Owen, said police asked him not to speak publicly about the case and declined to comment about his grandfather’s homicide.
“It’s a very active investigation, very fluid,” Jerman told the Gazette. “Investigators are following the facts and the evidence, and they go where the evidence leads them to.”
Matthew John Owen was born Nov. 29, 1922. He married his third wife, Ruth Maxine Forinash Wells, in 1956.
Private family services were to be held at a later date. The Jones & Eden Funeral Home in Washington handled arrangements.
Ruth died Dec. 1, 2009 at age 90. She was buried at the Elm Grove Cemetery in Washington, Iowa.
If you have any information about M. John Owen’s unsolved homicide, please contact the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s Investigative Division at (319) 286-5400 or the department’s Cold Case Unit at (319) 286-5619.