Kenneth Osburn Pleads Guilty to 2006 Murder of Pine Bluff Teen

(Update, June 19):
(SEARK TODAY) - Nearly eight years after Casey Crowder’s body was found near a drainage canal east of Dumas, the Desha County truck driver suspected of strangling her to death has pleaded guilty to her murder.

In a plea agreement on Wednesday, 54-year-old Kenneth Osburn pleaded guilty to kidnapping and second-degree murder in the 2006 death of the Pine Bluff teen. He received a 30-year sentence for murder and a 10-year sentence for kidnapping. The sentences will run consecutive.

“It was a negotiated plea that I hated, but it was probably the least worst option,” 10th Judicial District Prosecutor Thomas Deen said, adding that Osburn belongs in a grave.

The body of the Watson Chapel High School senior was discovered near Dumas on September 2, 2006 with a black zip-tie around her neck. She had been missing since August 27, 2006 when her vehicle ran out of gas on U.S. 65 in Dumas while returning home to Pine Bluff from her boyfriend’s home at Pickens.

During the investigation into Crowder’s death, law enforcement officials viewed video cameras located at businesses along U.S. 65. A truck with distinctive markings like the truck Osburn owned was seen on that stretch of highway the morning of Crowder’s disappearance. A witness told police that she saw a girl slumped over in Osburn’s truck the same morning. The witness said she assumed the girl was Osburn’s daughter and that the girl was sleeping. But she saw Osburn’s daughter at a different location a short time later.

Osburn subsequently made statements implicating himself in Crowder’s murder.

He was tried in 2008 and sentenced to life in prison after an Ashley County jury convicted him of capital murder and kidnapping. The case had been moved from Desha County to Ashley County due to pretrial publicity.

The following year, the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial. The court said Osburn’s statements to police could not be used as evidence in the retrial because he was interrogated without an attorney even though he had requested one.

“The suppression of the confession put the State in an untenable position,” Deen said.

Osburn will serve 14.5 years before he becomes eligible for parole. He has already served eight of those years.

(Original Story, June 2010):
Attorneys for Kenneth Osburn want his 2nd murder trial moved out of Ashley County in southeast Arkansas.  A jury convicted Osburn of capital murder in the death of Watson Chapel teenager Casey Crowder.

The supreme court overturned Osburn's conviction saying he confessed because of police coercion.  Now, a year later the whole thing starts over and Osburn's attoneys don't want it here.

Today the first time anyone has seen Kenneth Osburn since his conviction two years ago for the murder of 17-year old Casey Crowder.

Crowder disappeared from the side of Highway 65 near Dumas early one morning in the summer of 2006 after her car broke down.  She was found strangled and dumped a week later in this Desha County field.

Her disappearance garnered national headlines. That carried over to Osburn's prosecution. The trial moved to Hamburg because of pre-trial publicity.

"It was an emotional case, it was highly covered with the media, everywhere from Little Rock down to Louisiana," defense attorney Jim Wyatt says.

Now Osburn's defense team says all that publicity has tainted Ashley County for his second trial.

"Based on the people throughout the county that our investigator talked to we just don't think Mr. Osburn can get a fair trial here," Wyatt says.

Prosecutor Thomas Deen said the defense didn't talk to enough people. And that knowledge of the case doesn't mean a fair jury can't be seated.

"Knowing about it doesn't, having it (trial) in your community can," Wyatt says.

And Osburn's attorneys want it moved out of Hamburg.

The judge did not make a ruling today but there's only a few places it could be moved to here in the southeast corner of the state.

Casey's parents didn't want to say anything today but in past interviews they indicated they're readying themselves again for another emotional trial.

Casey Crowder was murdered in Desha County in August of 2006.  Kenneth Osburn was convicted of her murder in January of 2008.  In June of last year, the Supreme Court overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial.

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