Washington County booking photo of TK Owens.
A former U.S. Senate candidate and local television reporter was charged Friday with trying to have a Carter County Sheriff’s Office deputy — his own uncle — killed.
Thomas Kenneth “T.K.” Owens, 128 Leach St., Jonesborough, was arraigned in Washington County Sessions Court on a charge of solicitation to commit first-degree murder.
Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes said the actual transaction to commission the killing was completed in Johnson City, so the charges were filed in Jonesborough.
Mathes would not give specific information about the motive, but did say Owens was apparently considering joining the ministry and had some type of spiritual disagreement with his uncle, Ernie Widby.
Widby is a full-time minister at Zion Faith Center in Johnson City as well as a part-time Carter County sheriff’s deputy.
Mathes said an informant came to the sheriff’s office with information that Owens was looking to pay someone to kill Widby. That led to a meeting in Johnson City where Owens connected with another individual — who was working undercover for the operation — and handed over $500 as a down payment for the $2,500 hit.
Owens brought a picture of the intended victim of the murder plot as well as his home address to the meeting in the parking lot of Bailey’s Sports Bar. Owens was arrested after the payment was made.
Mathes said the photo of Widby came from the website of a local media outlet that covered a story in which Widby was involved recently.
“Ernie is one of the finest men I’ve met in my life,” Mathes said. He added that he believes the incident is an isolated event, but “you’re not going to do that to one of my officers.”
Widby is a court bailiff and has worked for the sheriff’s office since August 2008.
Owens is also facing a Carter County Criminal Court charge of solicitation of a minor. He was arrested May 31, 2011, after a 7-year-old girl’s mother told officials that Owens had invited her into his apartment to get a “twisty tie” ring he made.
The girl told her mother Owens gave her the ring and asked for a hug. After she hugged him, she said he unzipped his pants and exposed himself to her and asked her if she wanted to perform an inappropriate act. The girl told Owens she had to go home to finish her chores. She then ran home.
The case is still pending, with the latest hearing set for Oct. 3.
While the case was still in Sessions Court, Owens underwent a mental evaluation at Lakeshore Mental Health Institute where it was determined he did have a severe mental disease or defect, but it didn’t affect his ability to understand the wrongfulness of the alleged behavior.
Owens is being held in the Washington County Detention Center on $100,000 bond. He has a preliminary hearing set for Aug. 29 at 1:30 p.m.
Staff Writer John Thompson contributed to this article.
More about Owens:
More about Widby:
Earlier report filed at 11 a.m.:
Update: A former U.S. Senate candidate and local television reporter has been charged with trying to have a Carter County Sheriff's Office deputy/local minister killed.
Thomas Ken "T.K." Owens, Leach Drive, Jonesborough, was charged with solicitation to commit first degree murder.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Owens was arrested after he met with an individual and paid him $500 as a down payment to kill a relative. Owens brought a picture of the intended victim of the murder plot as well as his home address to a meeting with the hired hit man at Bailey’s Sports Bar in Johnson City. That is where law enforcement arrested Owens after the payment was made.
Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes had said the intended victim was a Carter County deputy. The deputy has been identified as Ernie Widby, Owens' uncle and pastor of New Zion Faith Center in Johnson City.
Owens was booked into the Washington County Detention Center on $100,000 bond. He was scheduled to appear in court this morning.
Owens, a former reporter for WJHL-TV, ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2012.
He also has faced Carter County charges in 2011 of soliciting sex from a minor.
Keep visiting JohnsonCityPress.com for more information as it becomes available.
ELIZABETHTON — A Johnson City man has been charged with trying to have a Carter County Sheriff's Office deputy.
Sheriff Chris Mathes said the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Sheriff's Office made the arrest in a joint investigation just after midnight.
The man was charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder of a Carter County deputy.
Mathes will hold a press conference at the Carter County Courthouse this morning at 11.