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Osburn Receives Life Sentence in Crowder Murder

A jury of three men and nine women in Ashley County sentenced Kenneth Ray Osburn to life in prison Friday night, after failing to unanimously decide on the death penalty. Osburn received dual life sentences for both a capital murder and kidnapping conviction.
A jury of three men and nine women in Ashley County sentenced Kenneth Ray Osburn to life in prison Friday night, after failing to unanimously decide on the death penalty. Osburn received dual life sentences for both a capital murder and kidnapping conviction.

"I have kind of this funny feeling that I haven't had and maybe that is closure," Melinda Crowder said Friday night.

Closure is what Melinda Crowder and her family where seeking this week in Hamburg. They may have found it with a guilty verdict against Kenneth Osburn, 48.

Sentencing Osburn proved to be tougher. The jury deliberated for nearly three hours before informing circuit judge Sam Pope they were unable to reach an unanimous sentencing for Osburn. When queried, the foreman informed the court that the jury was split 11-1 on sentencing. The judge did not ask which way they were leaning. After declaring there was no way to come to a unanimous sentence, the judge ruled Osburn would recieve life in prison.

Thomas Deen, prosecuting attorney for the 10th judicial circuit, said he knew a split jury was possible.

"It would have been preferred had the jury reached a verdict, but I understand," Deen says. "I'm pleased with the conviction. Jurors obviously took their responsiblity seriously and took a great deal of time in deliberating and sometimes it happens that way."

Osburn's family left the courtroom without commenting, but his defense team did speak to reporters for the first time since the trial began Monday.

"You have two families that clearly lost someone they loved and it makes it difficult all the way around," said attorney Patrick Benca.

Deen says the trial went as he expected and the evidence was good that led to the convictions.

"Justice was served," Deen said. "I felt he should receive the same fate that Casey Crowder met, but so be it."

The trial ended after five days. After 17 months of what the Crowder family called, "Justice for Casey," they believe they have found it now.

"There never will be complete closure, but maybe I do have a little sense of closure because I do have this feeling of relief."

Sentencing for Osburn

During the sentencing phase Friday afternoon, prosecutor Thomas Deen called two witnesses, Casey's parents, Melinda and Marty Crowder.

"There's no way to convey what this has done to our family. There will always be a dark cloud of murder following my family for the rest of their lives. I still don't sleep at night sometimes wondering why," Melinda Crowder said reading from a prepared statement.

She then addressed Osburn directly.

"You could have just pushed her out of your truck, but you chose to put a plastic zip tie around her neck and watch her die. I'll never understand why you did this. You've also killed a part of me."

Casey's father also read from a statement for the jury.

"I'm a father of five, four boys and one girl. Casey was my jewel, you can ask anyone," Marty Crowder read aloud. "her absence is the hardest thing I have ever experienced. Each time we hunt, fish or camp we all say how much better it would be if Casey were here too. My daugter's energy was contagious. Now it's hard to have fun and not feel guilty because she's there to share it with. We love her with all of our heart," Crowder said.

After his statement, he looked at the jury.

"Have you ever had to bury a child? It's the most difficult thing you could ever have to do."

The defense has called eight character witnesses, including Kenneth Osburn's mother, brother and sister.

Ruth Osburn said her son was a good boy who dropped out of school in the 9th grade but went to work on a farm.

While she spoke, the defendant broke down at the defense table, the first visible emotions shown since the trial began Monday.

"Please have mercy on my son," Ruth Osburn said.

Defense witnesses continue to be called to the stand right now.

Verdict is In

The jury deliberated for six hours on Thursday night and Friday morning before reaching the verdict.

After the verdict was read members of Kenneth Osburn's family wept openly in the courtroom.  One called out to Osburn as he was led out of the courtroom.

"Kenny, you didn't do it, I know you didn't do it," his mother Ruth Osburn said.

Family members of Casey Crowder embraced each other and law enforcement both in and outside the Ashley County courthouse shortly.

Marty and Melinda Crowder, Casey's parents, walked out to lunch together after the guility verdict, sharing their sense of relief.

"He can never do this again," Melinda Crowder said. "He'll never be able to hurt anyone ever again."

"That's right," replied her husband.

The sentencing phase of the trial started Friday afternoon.

The Defense Rests

The jury in the Casey Crowder murder trial has decided that 48-year-old Kenneth Osburn is guilty of kidnapping, capital murder in the furtherance of kidnapping, and attempted rape.

The defense for Osburn rested Thursday with expert testimony from one witness.

Defense attorney Patrick Benca brought in criminologist Richard Leo out of the University of San Francisco. Leo offered testimony about police interrogation and false confessions.

Leo asserted for a false confession defense to work it has to be proven the crime didn't occur, it was physically impossible the defendant committed it, DNA evidence clears him, or threats were made against him forcing him to confess.
The last assertion is what Osburn's defense team is counting on.

On the stand, Leo said it was highly irregular and extremely inappropriate for police to tell Osburn he would "have a needle in his arm" if he didn't confess to murdering Crowder.

Casey's mother, Melinda Crowder was the final witness of the trial.

"I saw part of the interviews and I don't feel it was as bad as they played it out to be," says Crowder. "It was hard, but I know I needed to clarify some things that weren't brought out earlier. Just a small detail but just something that hadn't been said."

Casey's Mom Speaks Out

Prosecutors say Osburn kidnapped and killed 17-year old Casey Crowder and he should be executed for the crimes.

Casey's aunt told FOX16 the trial is physically and emotionally exhausting. After 10 defense witnesses, the jury could get the case Thursday. Casey’s mom, Melinda Crowder, told FOX16 before the trial started she could not wait for it to be over.

"It's never going to be over. Everyday, every minute, I remember her and think about her," says Melinda.

The day before the murder trial for Kenneth Osburn started, Melinda Crowder sat down to talk about getting ready to sit in the courtroom with the man accused of killing her daughter. "It's tough. It's tough looking at this person you know hurt your daughter."

Osburn's confession was played in court Tuesday to the jury. It's the state's strongest evidence that he's responsible for the murder of 17-year old Casey Crowder.

"I just don't understand how he could hurt this little beautiful spunky girl. I just want to know why," says Melinda.

With the trial getting closer to an end, Melinda knows she might not get a why, but hopes the jury comes back with a conviction...

"If they find him guilty, and he's in prison and he's there for a while, I know that will help us," says Melinda.

FOX16 will have live reports from Hamburg as the trial wraps up and will continue until the jury reaches a verdict.

The defense called 10 witnesses Wednesday and sources say there are just a few left, then it goes to the jury.

Casey Crowder disappeared in August 2006. After 6 days of searching, her body was found in a heavily wooded area near Dumas. If convicted, Osburn faces the death penalty.
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