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District attorney releases more details about Charina Owen manslaughter case


Monday, July 26, Jefferson County Judge Michael McClane sentenced Charina Owen, 37, to 22 years in prison for the death of her boyfriend, Byron Hilands, who was 34 at the time of his death.

Owen's family and Hilands' uncle attended the sentencing.

A release from the district attorney details the investigation.

The case against Owen, also known as Charina Mathews, began March 13, 2020, when Owen's brother, Jacob Owen, told law enforcement that his sister asked for help moving a fridge full of "spoiled meat." He said she told him she'd had a fight with Hilands, that he suspected his sister had done something to Hilands.

Almost two months later, May 7, 2020, deputies responded to a report from a person who found a human body in a refrigerator at a property on Southwest Bear Drive and Highway 361.

An autopsy showed Hilands was shot in the head and chest with a .22 caliber firearm. He was wearing pajamas and was inside a sleeping bag with a pillow, which, the release says, strongly suggests he was sleeping at the time he was shot.

About a month after that discovery, June 4, 2020, law enforcement arrested Charina Owen for the crime.

 - Byron Hilands was 34 when he was shot in the head and chest with a .22 caliber weapon. Authorities believe he was killed while he was sleeping. His body was in a sleeping bag and was discovered inside a refrigerator. On July 26, Charina Owen, Hilands' girlfriend at the time of his death, pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Friday July 23, Owen pleaded guilty to manslaughter, burglary and felon in possession of a firearm.

After the sentencing, Hilands' uncle expressed relief.

"It's done," said Mark Bross, who drove from West Linn to represent his family at the proceeding. "Everybody seems to forget about the life that's gone."

Bross was disappointed the court dropped the abuse of corpse charge. "Nothing about how she moved the body and let it rot for months while she figured out how to get away with this."

Owen's family thought the sentence was too long.

"What am I going to do without my best friend for 20 years?" said her tearful mother, who didn't want her name used. "She's a very charismatic person."

"I don't want her to be remembered or vilified for a single event," said Jacob Owen, "when she's done more good than harm."

"She's safe," said Clayton Mathews, Charina Owen's son. "She was a great mom when she was around."

 - Charina Owen's brother, Jacob Owen, (left) and her son, Clayton Mathews, 19, say Charina was a good person caught up in addiction. They both say they'll stay in her life while she's incarcerated. She'll be at Coffee Creek for 22 years without possibility of parole. Mathews says Owen was in and out of prison and fighting addiction since he was 3 years old. He grew up with his maternal grandparents.

Jacob described the relationship between his sister and her boyfriend as "gas on fire, mutually assured destruction." He's not surprised the relationship ended violently.

Charina Owen will spend the next 22 years at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, with no opportunity for parole.

Byron Hilands' remains are buried next to his parents in their family cemetery in Beaver Creek on the property where he grew up.

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