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Lincoln County detective cracks 14-year-old cold case

Posted on Tuesday, December 4, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Cottle (right) addresses reporters at a press conference on Dec. 4.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office has arrested two men in in relation to a 14-year-old murder case.

Arrest warrants have been acquired for both 36-year-old Joseph Harrell of Warrenton and 57-year-old Daniel Russell of Tipton, Missouri, in relation to the death of Byron Owens, who was shot five times in Lincoln County over a decade ago.

On March 11, 2004, Byron Owens went out with some friends to celebrate his birthday, according to Sheriff John Cottle.

“Not knowing it would be the last time anyone would see him alive,”  Cottle said. “The next morning Byron Owens’ body was discovered in Lincoln County near Truxton, Missouri.”

Cottle said the Sheriff’s Office knew Owens was an associate of Harrell and Russell, but could not make an arrest at the time.

Because of the large caseload at the Sheriff’s Office and the continuity of the case itself, Cottle hired a cold-case investigator, Joel B. Fann, 18 months ago.

“He and his team have worked tirelessly to bring this case to a close,” Cottle said. Cottle said he and Fann had worked together at St. Charles County in the past.

“He’s an outstanding detective, he’s worked with the FBI Task Force,” Cottle said. “He had just recently retired, and I had already been on him anyway to come work for me.” Cottle said Fann’s only task was to focus in on a single cold case, and see it through to completion.

“I knew we could crack it, I knew we could get charges on it, because like I said the majority of information was already there,” Cottle said. “It was just compiling it, cleaning it up, putting everything together – draw the line through the dots.”

Early in the morning of Dec. 4, the Sheriff’s Office –with the help of the U.S. Marshals – took Harrell and Russell in to custody. Russell had been due to be released from the Department of Corrections, and was picked up by detectives early in the morning.  Harrell was taken into custody by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the U.S. Marshal’s Office at his home in Warrenton.

“We are extremely thankful for the ongoing support of the U.S. Marshals Service and the Lincoln County Prosecutor’s office in this case,” Cottle said.

Cottle said he regretted that Owens’ mother wasn’t able to get closure on her son’s case prior to her own death several years ago.

“The mother would come up here every year, and ask,” Cottle said. “She deserved closure…I’m just sorry we couldn’t do it any sooner.”

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