Matthew John Owen

Matthew John Owen (Courtesy The Gazette)

Matthew John Owen


Matthew John Owen
90 YOA
107 Gas Light Ct. SW
Cedar Rapids, IA
Linn County
January 18, 2013


Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing

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.

Linn County in Iowa
Linn County in Iowa
Cedar Rapids in Linn CountyCedar Rapids in Linn County

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 issued 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.

matthew-owen-home-gazetteCourtesy photo Jeff Raash/The Gazette
M. John Owen, 90, was found Jan. 18, 2013, in this home at 107 Gas Light Court SW.

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.”

Matthew John OwenCourtesy photo The Gazette
M. John Owen lived a lavish lifestyle, which some believe may have marked him as an easy target.

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.

Owen’s ‘Cleaning ladies’

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:

  • He frequented strip clubs, flashed his diamonds and spent large amounts of cash. He once told a relative of his late wife that he had come into the world with nothing and would leave the world in the same fashion.
  • Owen spent thousands of dollars to pay for housing, phones, clothes and tattoos for young women, and according to one of them, he knew some of his money was being used to buy drugs. He referred to the girls as his “chickies.”
  • “He wanted her to come over to clean the house, take him to the doctor or whatever,” said Wanda Ciha of Cedar Rapids, referring to her 18-year-old daughter, “but then he started asking her for ‘the woman.’ That’s what he called the private area – ‘the woman.’”
  • Katie Pencil, 23, of Cedar Rapids, said she met Owen through a stripper at Woody’s Show Club in Cedar Rapids. She and two other women, both 18, admitted to The Gazette they slept in the same bed with Owen on multiple occasions, but they all denied any sexual involvement.
  • Brittany Creamer, 18, of Cedar Rapids, said Owen paid for the braces on her teeth and offered to pay for breast enhancement surgery.
  • Several of the young women who knew Owen said he turned on them if they tried to cut off communication or didn’t do what he wanted.
  • In 2012, Owen accused Pencil of stealing more than $17,000 from him by forging 23 of his checks; Owen then spent $5,000 to retain an attorney for her defense.

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.”

About Matthew John Owen

Ruth Owen died Dec. 1, 2009 at age 90.
(Courtesy photo

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.

Information Needed

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.


12 Responses to Matthew Owen

  1. Gail Ayres says:

    how can someone have two welfare checks and this 1/4 million dollar home…. and how do they know jewelry is missing?

  2. Sandy Ford says:

    Sad I hope someone comes forward with information

  3. Mike Byrne says:

    Sad to say,but this old boy set himself up to be robbed & murdered.He wore flashy jewelry,hung out at a stripper bar and flashed a lot of money around at unsavory characters.Did he have a death wish?I wonder why his son didn’t step in to protect him from that crowd.Did he have alzheimers or some other disease that caused confusion?Or was he just a dirty old man having fun?Sad,very sad.

  4. Diana Wilson says:

    Sad. They must’ve known he had money.

  5. Sandy R says:

    Wow. This sounds like a storyline from a soap opera! I feel bad for his wife. After 52 years of marriage he files for divorce when she’s in a nursing home? He lived a very interesting life, that’s for sure!

  6. Wow… he was quite the fella! Involved in all kinds of weird things.

  7. Whoever would kill a 90 year old…..has no soul…

  8. Just sad! And it’s a cold case SMDH

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