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Decades later: FOX Files investigations spark interest in murder conviction

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ST. LOUIS – A decades-old murder conviction may finally get a second look after years of FOX Files investigations.

Bertha Owens was convicted with no physical evidence. FOX 2 tracked down a star witness who recanted their testimony. Now, it seems the prosecutors may be listening.

“Finally, yes. Finally, somebody is looking at it and I just figure it’s God’s timing,” Owens said. “I can’t give up hope now.”

Attorney Matt Radefeld volunteered to take her case and believes in her innocence.

“This case is ripe to be looked at, ripe to be overturned, and have Bertha released,” he said.

Owens, now 65, is serving a life sentence for the reported 1996 murder of Fred Huff at the California Gardens apartment complex in the Benton Park West neighborhood.

Since November 2021, we’ve brought you a series of FOX Files investigations on the conviction and sentencing. In that first report, we met with Owens in person at Chillicothe Correctional Center and asked her, “Did you kill Fred Huff?”

“No, I did not,” she said.

We also interviewed private investigator Charley Schneider, who said he found no evidence Owens was connected to the crime.

“This one is so obvious,” he said. “I even think I know who did it.”

In August 2022, we interviewed Owens’ original attorney, Sharon Turlington, who said evidence was withheld at trial nearly 30 years ago, indicating the victim was not murdered.

“Basically, the hospital made a mistake and accidentally punctured (the victim’s) colon and then he ultimately died because he became septic,” Turlington said.

FOX 2 found the state’s star witness, who told jurors Owens was at the crime scene. However, she told us that was not true. In an audio-taped interview, the witness told us, “(The prosecutor) was saying that I needed to tell the story of what happened and when I kept telling them that I didn’t know, I really didn’t know, they didn’t want to believe me so I, just like I said, went along with it to make them leave me alone.”

The prosecutors at the time included Nels Moss, whom Radefeld described as “cutthroat prosecutors that would have done anything they could do to get a conviction, including threatening the witnesses.”

Radefeld has a large packet of evidence and interviews he’s submitted to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Gabe Gore’s office. While a previous administration would not acknowledge Owens’ case, in our repeated inquiries, it appears Gore’s office is at least receptive to reviewing the matter.

We’ll keep you updated on any new developments in the case.

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