Woman found dead at scene of Franklin fire; homicide investigation underway


FRANKLIN, Mass. (WPRI) — Detectives have launched a homicide investigation after a woman was found dead Friday morning at the scene of a house fire in Franklin.

Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey said officers responded to the home on Grace Lane after receiving a call from a neighbor about a domestic assault.

The police report obtained by 12 News revealed that upon arrival, officers were approached by a woman who claimed to be the victim’s mother.

The woman told police her daughter, 49-year-old Shirley Owen, and her estranged husband, 47-year-old Brendon Owen, were fighting inside the home.

The police report said the officers couldn’t get inside because all of the doors were locked. But when one of the officers looked inside a nearby window, he noticed a couch in the living room was on fire.

The officer also saw Brendon standing near the door with a bottle of lighter fluid, according to the report.

Police said the officer urged Brendon to open the door, to which he responded by spraying the door with the lighter fluid and lighting a match.

The officer kicked the door in, according to the report, but was immediately overcome with smoke, which forced him back outside.

Brendon attempted to escape through the garage but was arrested after police used a stun gun to subdue him, the report said. It was then Shirley’s mother urgently reminded the officers that her daughter was still inside, so the officers went back in and found her unresponsive on the ground.

The officers managed to pull Shirley from the home before being overcome by smoke, according to the report, but she was pronounced dead a short time later. Police said she had suffered severe head trauma.

Detectives later learned Brendon had broken into the home with a lead pipe and hammer, according to the police report. Prior to attacking his estranged wife, the report said Brendon hit her mother over the head with the pipe, ordered her into the bathroom and restrained her with duct tape.

Shirley’s mother was able to break free, according to police, and she ran to the neighbor’s house to call for help.

Brendon was angered by the fact Shirley had full custody of their two children, who weren’t home at the time of the incident, according to police.

“What I would like to leave people with is at this time of year, domestic violence cases are always bad,” Morrissey said. “At this time of year, sometimes it comes to a head, some of the things that go on with people’s family around the holiday season. It’s always difficult, and this is the worst result that we get to see is the death of an individual.”

Franklin Police Chief Thomas Lynch said Shirley and her mother had active restraining orders against Brendon.

Lynch said the last murder that happened in Franklin was 24 years ago, noting that this was an isolated incident.

“For the last 10 years, we’ve been voted one of the safest [towns], not only in Massachusetts, but the United States, for a population our size,” Lynch added. “The town is no less safe right now than it was this morning.”

Shirley’s mother was taken to the hospital where she was treated for injuries that aren’t believed to be life-threatening.

The house has been deemed a total loss after sustaining significant damage in the fire.

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