SANTA CRUZ—After an emotional three-hour sentencing hearing Friday that included testimony from friends and family of both suspect and victim, the woman who stabbed her husband to death in their Aptos home in 2019 learned her sentence.
Amanda Owens will spend three years in prison, plus one year for using a deadly weapon, Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge John Salazar ruled.
Owens pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in May. She also admitted to using a deadly weapon during the crime.
In accepting the charge, Owens avoided a more serious murder charge that carried a possible 25-year prison term.
On Friday, she was facing a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the couple’s residence on the 100 block of Victoria Lane at 12:55pm on Aug. 24, 2019, for a report of a stabbing.
When they arrived they found 63-year-old Thomas Owens suffering from several stab wounds. Paramedics treated him, but he died at the scene.
Owens has contended since the incident that she was defending herself against an attack by Thomas Owens, which she claimed followed years of domestic abuse.
But Santa Cruz County Assistant District Attorney Jason Gill painted a vastly different picture of Amanda Owens, saying it was her that was the primary abuser in the relationship.
To highlight this, Gill read several text messages that Owens sent her husband, in which among other things she called him an “irresponsible piece of crap” and “nothing but a clueless dumbsh**.”
Other texts Amanda Owens sent her husband include:
“You are a catastrophe in every way.”
“Your life is nothing but a train wreck.”
“You should kill yourself.”
“You’re **cking dead.”
And, to a friend: “I’m not kidding when I say I want to kill him.”
Through it all, Gill said, Thomas Owens wanted to simply “endure it” for the sake of the couple’s daughter and son.
He also said that Owens threatened her husband with a knife just weeks before he died and that Owens has no injuries after the fatal attack, despite her claims that it was a life-or-death struggle.
“We’ve never seen a case where someone who claims they are the victim sends these kinds of vitriolic messages to the one they claim is the abuser,” Gill said.
Thomas Owen’s sister Barbara Blondo said the family knew Amanda Owens had “rage issues,” and that they witnessed her on numerous occasions berating her husband, often in front of friends and family members. All of them said they frequently heard her “raging” in the background during phone calls.
Blondo, along with another sister and two brothers, described Thomas Owens as a kind, helpful, easygoing man who was dedicated to his family. She rejected assertions that her brother was abusing Amanda Owens.
“Mandy took my brother’s life, and now she’s trying to assassinate his character,” she said.
Brother Jim Owens, and his siblings, said that the family was disappointed that Amanda Owens’ charge was reduced.
“This is a case about domestic violence, only in this case it’s a woman abusing her husband over the years,” he said.
Amanda Owens’ friends and family told Salazar that Owens is not a danger to society, and asked that he impose probation.
Her sister Jennifer Larkin described her as “One of the most compassionate, caring, kind, considerate and non-violent human beings I know.”
“She would never intentionally inflict physical pain onto someone she loves,” Larkin said.
She said that Thomas Owens physically harmed his wife on multiple occasions and that she kept much of the abuse to herself.
All of the people who spoke in Owens’ defense talked about her college-aged daughter and her son, who is disabled and currently living in a residential facility.
“My heart bled for them, and I don’t want them to suffer anymore from this tragic accident,” Larkin said. “The woman we know and love is not the person being described in this court by the DA.”
When it was her turn to speak, Owens turned to the packed courtroom and, through tears, said “I’m so sorry.”
“Every day I relive that day, and grieve over the loss of my husband,” she said.
Owens then said that her husband became “volatile” when she told him she was divorcing him, and grabbed her and threatened her.
“I’ve lived with this horror from the day it happened,” she said. “All I can do from this point forward is be the best mom I can be to James and Ava. I’m not a violent person.”
That statement rang hollow with Thomas Owens’ family.
“The evidence seems compelling that given the thousands of text messages and given the behavior over a long period of time in front of friends and family, I’m focusing more on her behavior,” Jim Owens said. “And we’ve seen the results of her behavior. Amanda still does not accept responsibility.”
Amanda Owens’ attorney, George Gigarjian, said that Owens was a victim of domestic violence, an assertion he said was backed up by a psychologist. He referred to photos of bruising on her body from Feb. 25, April 7 and July 24, 2019.
On the day Thomas Owens died, Gigarjian said that her husband was chasing her through the house, and that she grabbed the closest thing she could to protect herself.
“The domestic violence was escalating throughout the summer, and was an important backdrop for what happened on Aug. 24,” he said. “Are [the text messages] obscene? Are they offensive? Yes. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Amanda was the victim of domestic violence.”
Gigarjian also said that Thomas Owens had a history of abusive behavior toward women at work, where several women refused to work with him.
In addition, Amanda Owens immediately performed first aid after the stabbing, and called 911, Gigarjian said.
In his sentencing decision, Salazar said it was clear that there was domestic violence in the house, but said that “something was missing” from Owens’ version of the events.
Amanda Owens largely instigated the fights, Salazar said, adding that he read all of the hundreds of abusive text messages Amanda Owens sent her husband.
“The words I read in those messages don’t give the impression of a cowering victim of domestic violence,” he said.