FRANKLIN, MASS. (WHDH) - A man accused of brutally murdering his ex-wife before setting a raging fire that destroyed her home in Franklin on Friday morning has been ordered held without bail.
Emergency crews responding to a report of a domestic dispute at 11 Grace Lane shortly after 7:30 a.m. found flames burning in the multi-level home, as well as an unresponsive woman suffering from blunt-force trauma, according to Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey.
The woman, who Morrissey identified as 49-year-old Shirley Owen, was pulled from a breezeway and pronounced dead at the scene.
Her estranged husband, 47-year-old Brendon Owen, was arrested outside of the home after police were forced to deploy a stun gun to subdue him.
Hours after being taken into custody, Owen was arraigned in Wrentham District Court, where he pleaded not guilty to what prosecutors called a “calculated killing.”
Owen, who was armed with a lead pipe and a hammer, doused the home in lighter fluid and set it ablaze after carrying out the alleged murder, prosecutors added.
When Franklin firefighters arrived at the scene, the home was fully engulfed in flames, prompting a call for help from surrounding communities.
Owen also allegedly used duct tape to restrain Shirley’s mother in a bathroom but she was able to break free and run to a neighbor’s home, where she called 911 to report the ongoing attack on her daughter, prosecutors said. She was later taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Franklin Police Chief Thomas J. Lynch said the couple was known to his department “for the past seven years” and that an active restraining order was pending in Wrentham District Court.
Lynch also noted that the couple’s children were not home at the time of the incident.
“At this time of year, domestic violence cases are always bad cases. At this time of year, sometimes it comes to head with some of things that going on with families around the holidays,” Morrissey added.
The State Medical Examiner’s Office is working to determine an official cause and manner of death.
Morrissey assured Franklin residents that the incident was isolated and the town is safe, saying the last murder in the community was 24 years ago.
The blaze reduced the inside of the home to a pile of charred rubble and video from SKY7 HD showed significant damage to the roof.
State police homicide detectives and the Office of the State Fire Marshal are assisting Franklin police with the investigation.
Owen is due back in court in January.
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