One-time Senate candidate in Tennessee accused of trying to have uncle killed

Posted at 2:06 PM, Aug 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-25 16:06:38-04
By Lauren Russell


(CNN) — A former U.S. Senate candidate from Tennessee was arrested after allegedly trying to hire a hit man to kill his uncle, CNN affiliate WJHL reports.

Thomas Ken Owens offered a man $500 as a down payment to kill the relative, who is a pastor and bailiff the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said.

WJHL identified Owens as a one-time Senate candidate.

A message left by CNN at Owens’ residence was not immediately returned. It was not immediately clear whether he has an attorney.

According to court documents, posted online by the Johnson City Press, Owens met up Friday evening with someone who he thought was a hit man in the parking lot of a sports bar, and provided the photo and address of his uncle, Ernest “Ernie” Widby. He didn’t realize that the purported hit man was an informant.

Owens was arrested after the meeting, which was audio recorded.

Owens, 38, has been charged with solicitation to commit first degree murder.

There was a spiritual dispute within the family, WJHL reported.

Widby is the founder and pastor of the local church, New Zion Faith Center, and a bailiff with the Carter County Sheriff’s Office.

At a press conference, Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes called Owens a “disturbed individual.”

“I’ll be very public about this. You’re not going to threaten one of my officers,” Mathes said.

Widby didn’t take time off work. He attended the press conference but did not comment, WJHL-TV reported.

“I will tell you that Mr. Widby is one of the finest men I’ve met in my life,” Mathes said.

Government records show that a Thomas Ken Owens threw his name into the ring for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2012. WJHL said he also worked as a reporter for the station between 2001 and 2004.

He is being held at the Washington County Jail on a $100,000 bond, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said.

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