Former U.S. Senate candidate charged in murder plot appointed attorney

Becky Campbell • Oct 8, 2013 at 9:01 PM

A former U.S. Senate candidate charged in August with plotting to have his uncle killed was appointed an attorney Monday.

Thomas Kenneth “T.K.” Owens, 128 Leach St., Jonesborough, is charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder. The victim in the case is Owens’ uncle, Ernie Widby, a local minister who also works part time as a Carter County Sheriff’s Office court bailiff.

Owens appeared in Washington County Criminal Court in front of Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood. The judge appointed David Robbins to represent Owens. Robbins also represents Owens on a Carter County case in which he’s charged with sexual battery of a young girl.

During a preliminary hearing in Sessions Court in August, TBI Special Agent Brian Fraley testified that a former Jonesborough police officer, Mike Lewis, contacted law enforcement Aug. 22 and said Owens had contacted him about a contract killing.

Fraley said Lewis ran into Owens several months ago when Owens was working at a local convenience store. Owens and Lewis, who already were acquainted, conversed about what Lewis was now doing — working for a military contractor providing security detail in the Middle East — and Owens got the man’s phone number.

On Aug. 22, Fraley said, Owens contacted Lewis and had a conversation about having someone killed.

It wasn’t until the two met that night in the parking lot of Bailey’s Sports Bar — and after Lewis was wired and working undercover — that Owens revealed whom he wanted killed.

Fraley said Owens provided a photo of Widby, his home address and a $500 cash down payment for the hit. The agent also testified that Owens said he wanted it to look like an accident to keep from alerting police.

The testimony said Owens said he wanted the hit carried out because his uncle was trying to kill him.

“Basically it was either him or the intended victim,” Fraley testified. “It was kill or be killed.”

Owens was a reporter for WJHL-TV in the early 2000s. In the 2012 election, he ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Tennessee’s Bob Corker.

Owens remains jailed on $100,000 bond. His next court hearing is Nov. 12 in Carter County.

Recommended for You