Former band teacher, charged with child enticement, dies

08/05/2014 9:33 AM

08/08/2014 2:47 PM

A former Independence band teacher charged with child enticement and molestation died last week, one day before he was scheduled to attend a plea hearing in his case.

James N. Owens, 29, of Lee’s Summit had been charged in 2012 with child enticement and second-degree child molestation.

He died Wednesday. He had been expected to attend a hearing Thursday morning in Independence. It had been listed as a plea hearing just days before his trial was to start. That usually signifies that a defendant plans to plead guilty.

On Thursday, a court official said the hearing had been rescheduled to Aug. 21.

According to court documents, Independence police learned in August 2012 that a woman had intercepted the thread of a live Facebook chat between a William Chrisman High School student, then 14, and her band teacher, identified as Owens.

When interviewed by a school counselor, the student said she had been involved in a physical relationship with Owens since March 2012. She said some of their encounters occurred on school property.

Investigators found past Facebook chats between the two that contained sexually explicit and inappropriate messages from Owens. Detectives also found more than 100 phone calls and about 1,520 text messages had been made between the student and Owens during a two-month span in summer 2012.

After retrieving a smartphone and desktop computer from Owens’ home, investigators found other evidence, including photos of the student without a shirt or bra.

Lee’s Summit police responded to Owens’ home on a death investigation call just after 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Owens taught at Chrisman for two years and had taught at Bingham Middle School. He had not taught or been in any of the district’s schools since August 2012, a spokeswoman said.

“Our thoughts are with the families affected by Mr. Owens’ untimely death,” the school district said Monday in a statement.

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