A New Hampshire man who is a former Army marksman faces federal charges of trying to kill his wife during a staged break-in at a Saco home after his jealous girlfriend in Wisconsin threatened to expose their affair.

Gregory Owens, 58, was arrested Sunday in Portland and charged with breaking into the house at 25 Hillview Ave., where his wife was staying with Carol and Steve Chabot. Authorities said he shot his wife three times, including once in the head, then shot Steve Chabot three times. Both survived, although authorities would not release their current conditions.

Owens appeared Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland. Assistant U.S. Attorney Darcie McElwee formally charged him with interstate domestic violence – crossing state lines with the intent of killing his wife, Rachel Owens, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Owens also is charged with firing a gun during a crime of violence, a federal crime punishable by up to life in prison.

Owens was escorted into the courtroom wearing the yellow clothing of a maximum-security inmate, his wrists chained to his waist and his ankles shackled. He was wearing blue slippers. Magistrate Judge John Rich III explained the charges against him and his rights as a defendant.

Footwear was a key piece of evidence against him, according to a court affidavit.

The affidavit, prepared by FBI Special Agent Pamela Flick, describes a cold-hearted plot by Owens to kill his wife, who is suffering from dementia, then avoid detection by police.

Gregory and Rachel Owens have been married more than 35 years and lived in Londonderry, New Hampshire. A retired Army sergeant major who trained as an expert marksman, Gregory Owens often traveled for business, working as a consultant for Target Acquired Technologies in Florida. Its website says the company is run by special forces veterans and offers security detachments, information technology and military-style training.

Rachel Owens did not work outside the home.

Within the past year, Rachel Owens – identified in the affidavit as R.O. – became “inexplicably ill … exhibiting symptoms of dementia” at 55, although she was previously in good health. Gregory Owens was having difficulty caring for her and had asked friends for help.

At the same time, he led a double life. For the past six years, he would visit Oshkosh, Wisconsin, once a month to socialize with a circle of friends, including his mistress of six years, identified in the affidavit only as B.W.

Two weeks before the shooting, Gregory Owens had unknowingly activated his cellphone and dialed his mistress’ number, allowing her to overhear his conversation.

What she heard made her believe Gregory Owens was never going to leave his wife as he had promised. She happened to be visiting the police chief of the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh and was so upset she told him about the nature of her relationship with Owens. She threatened to end it and publish photos of the two of them in the local newspaper.

On Dec. 15, Carol Chabot – a lifelong friend of Rachel Owens – retrieved her friend from New Hampshire for a three-day visit to Saco, where Rachel Owens’ parents live, in part to give Gregory Owens a break. The night before Rachel Owens was scheduled to return home, Carol Chabot woke to the sound of breaking glass at 2:45 a.m. She roused her husband before barricading herself in a spare bedroom.

Steve Chabot stepped into the hall, where he saw a figure approaching, wearing a ski mask and dark clothing and gripping a handgun. The intruder didn’t chase Chabot right away. He went to the room where Chabot’s wife was hiding, but was unable to open the door.

“The intruder then went immediately to the second spare bedroom door, from where he shot at (Rachel Owens) four times while she slept, striking her body three times, including one to the back of her head,” Flick wrote. Rachel Owens later had multiple surgeries, according to a friend.

The intruder then went to the master bedroom, where he briefly made eye contact with Steve Chabot before the latter slammed the door shut. Chabot noted that the attacker was wearing glasses along with the ski mask. He would later tell police they were the same kind he had seen Owens wearing when the two couples vacationed together.

The masked man kicked in the door, knocking off the handle and lock. Chabot tried to shut it, and rather than pushing it open, the attacker fired through the door, hitting him in the arm, shoulder and back. As he hid inside a closet, Chabot called police.

Police found a window in the garage door that had been smashed to gain entry. They also found a type of 9 mm shell casing manufactured 27 years ago.

Detective Sgt. Corey Huntress retrieved a casting of a boot print found in a flower bed outside a first-floor window, and it was sent to the State Police Crime Laboratory for analysis.

Those pieces of evidence helped put Gregory Owens at the crime scene, despite his insistence that he was home working and sleeping, the affidavit said.

About three hours after the shooting, New Hampshire State Police troopers went to Gregory Owens’ home and found his vehicle parked in the driveway with a warm engine hood. They saw him leave the home and drive to a convenience store in nearby Hudson, New Hampshire, where they pulled him over and informed him that his wife had been shot.

The affidavit says he then faked a heart attack, although he refused to be taken to the hospital.

In his car, which police searched later, they found a pair of size 11 boots – the size and sole pattern exactly matched the prints found in the flower bed.

They also found 15 rounds of the same 27-year-old ammunition used in the shooting in a mug on the desk of his home office, and another 30 rounds of the ammunition in a gun safe. Police seized 26 guns, including two 9 mm handguns.

Gregory Owens also had a cut on his hand. First he said it was from a coffee mug, then later a drinking glass.

A black jacket was in the washing machine, and dark-green cargo pants and a black shirt were in the dryer – clothes that matched those of the intruder.

During a subsequent police interview, Gregory Owens claimed to investigators that other than the trip to get coffee and doughnuts, he had been home working during the night of the shooting, Flick wrote.

Police analyzed his computer and it appeared that he had been using it at the time of the shooting. But they also found that someone had done a Google search that morning on how to change the clock on a computer to hide the actual time when it was used. Instead of accessing his files at 2:16 a.m., police determined they had been accessed at 5:16 a.m.

Police recovered video showing Owens at a Hudson convenience store at 12:11 a.m. the night of the shooting, then at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Londonderry at 4:50 a.m., providing the three hours necessary to drive to Saco, commit the crime and drive home, the affidavit says.

The affidavit also raises questions about Owens’ behavior in the days after the shooting.

When police first pulled him over, they told him his wife had been shot. He did not ask what had happened, the affidavit said. After the interviews, he asked to see his wife.

As a trooper drove him to Maine, where his wife was in surgery at Maine Medical Center, he asked to stop at TJ Maxx to get a change of clothes, then a nearby store to get cigarettes. He slept most of the way to Portland but did ask to stop once to smoke a cigarette.

Days later, when he recovered his car from Saco police, he did not ask about the progress of the investigation.

On Jan. 1, Owens’ employer, Target Technologies in Melbourne, Florida, contacted Saco police. His boss said Owens had called that day to ask him to tell investigators a lie – that they had been having a video chat at the time of the shooting. Owens no longer works for the company.

Friends in Wisconsin reported that Owens spent New Year’s Eve with his girlfriend, even renting a limousine, while his wife was recovering from the gunshots.

Asked about being a suspect in the shooting, Owens told friends and his girlfriend’s relatives that he had been cleared as a person of interest because he was in Afghanistan at the time of the crime and had a letter proving it.

At the conclusion of Monday’s hearing, Judge Rich ordered Owens held without bail until a hearing Jan. 21, giving him time to hire a lawyer.


 

Correction: This story was updated at 12:23 p.m., Jan. 13, 2015, to correctly state the Army rank of Gregory Owens. He is a retired sergeant major.