Gregory Owens’ former mistress says he told her he had to leave her home in Wisconsin to go on a secret mission to Pakistan with a group of retired special forces operatives. During the time she believed he was overseas, police say he went to Saco to shoot his wife.

Betsy Wandtke testified Monday during the second week of Owens’ trial in U.S. District Court in Portland. She described the fantastical tale Owens told her and how she caught him in a lie about the overseas mission and was skeptical of his story afterward, but wanted to believe he had not been misleading her for years about the seriousness of their relationship.

“I wanted desperately to believe he was doing what he said he was doing,” Wandtke said.

During Wandtke’s riveting testimony, the jurors looked back and forth from her, the jilted lover who traveled from Wisconsin to Maine to testify, to Owens, who appeared to avoid Wandtke’s gaze as he sat at the defendant’s table, dressed in a dark suit and tie.

Owens’ wife, Rachel Owens, who survived the shooting but still has a bullet lodged in her head, also was in the courtroom, sitting in the spectator section.

Owens, 59, is accused of driving from his home in Londonderry, New Hampshire, to Saco early on Dec. 18, 2014, and breaking into the Saco home of Steve and Carol Chabot, where his wife was visiting. Police say he wore a black ski mask over his face as he shot his wife, who was in bed, and then shot Steve Chabot in another room, while Carol Chabot hid in a third room. The Chabots also were in the courtroom Monday.


Investigators believe Owens tried to kill Rachel Owens after Wandtke found out he was splitting his time between the two women, living for up to 10 days at a time with Wandtke at her home in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and then returning to the New Hampshire home he shared with his wife. Both women testified that Owens had explained his time away from each of them by telling them he had to travel for work as a military contractor.

“There was always something coming up that he would have to take off,” Wandtke said.

Wandtke’s testimony was troubling for Owens’ defense, since Wandtke recounted how Owens convincingly told her one lie after another about covert missions, filing for divorce from his wife and leaving Rachel Owens to be with Wandtke in Wisconsin. Police contend Owens also lied to them, giving a detailed account of his whereabouts on Dec. 17-18, 2014, as an attempted alibi.

Owens has pleaded not guilty to two federal counts: interstate domestic violence, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, punishable by up to life in prison. After the federal trial, he faces state criminal charges, including aggravated attempted murder.

Prosecutors laid out Owens’ double life in images, contrasting years of vacation photos showing Owens with his wife and the Chabots in the Caribbean at the beginning of the trial last week, with years of vacation photos showing Owens and Wandtke together, on Monday.

Wandtke testified that she initially lied to investigators before Owens’ arrest, but later cooperated and provided police with annotated photos dating to 2007 showing her and Owens traveling in the Dominican Republic, hunting in Australia, fly-fishing on the Provo River in Utah, hunting in South Africa and at the Marine Corps Ball in Orlando, Florida, in 2013.


“We loved to cook and have people over,” Wandtke said. “We had quite the social life.”

But Wandtke also testified that Owens often would come up with last-minute excuses to leave her, especially around holidays.

In November 2014, she said, Owens told her that he and other former special forces soldiers were being called in to rescue some military contract employees who had been taken captive in Pakistan. The story was believable to her because Owens’ co-workers were all ex-military specialists and Owens himself was a special forces trained Army veteran of 24 years.

“They were going to put government contractors together because the government wasn’t going to do anything for them,” Wandtke said. “I drove him to the airport.”

But Wandtke said she received two accidental calls, or “butt dials,” from Owens cellphone on Dec. 3, 2014, that she confronted him about. She could hear Owens in one of the calls talking to someone he referred to as “Rach” and placing an order in a fast-food restaurant. Owens had told her that he was in Afghanistan coordinating the Pakistan mission.

“I had been lied to. I believed in my heart and soul that he was off saving lives,” she said. “It didn’t upset me that he was off with Rachel. It upset me that I was being played for a fool.”


But Wandtke said she believed that, even after she caught Owens in New Hampshire with his wife, that he really did go to Afghanistan. She said she read about Rachel Owens being shot about eight hours after if happened and immediately began trying to reach Owens on his cellphone.

“I was frantic. The first thing I did was try to call Greg to say ‘You have to go home. Rachel has been shot,'” she said.

But unbeknownst to Wandtke, Owens already was in a police interrogation room when she called and he wasn’t able to call her back until later that day.

“He got a hold of me. He called me and said, ‘I just found out. I’m going to get on a plane and fly back to Maine or New Hampshire,’ ” she said he told her.

Owens even flew to Wisconsin to be with her for New Year’s Eve 2014 and spent days afterward with Wandtke, telling her that police had ruled him out as a person of interest in the shooting.

Even months after Owens’ arrest on Jan. 11, 2015, he continued to insist to Wandtke that he had been in Afghanistan on the secret mission, not being interrogated by police on Dec. 18. Prosecutors played recorded phone calls from the jail in Portland, in which Owens could be heard telling Wandtke that he was not back in the country until Dec. 19.


“You are my partner, my lover, my life,” Owens said to Wandtke in one recorded jail phone call.

Wandtke testified that she first met Owens about a decade ago, on a return flight from a Safari Club International convention on hunting. He paid to upgrade her coach seat to first class so he could meet her. They talked about hunting and fishing. He told her about his special forces training in the military. They both talked about their failing marriages at the time and stayed in touch afterward, she said.

Owens had been living in Texas in a house he had there when Wandtke divorced her husband. She believed Owens was separated from his wife and became romantically involved with him about seven years ago.

Police investigating Rachel Owens’ shooting pulled Gregory Owens over in Hudson, New Hampshire, about three hours after Steven Chabot’s 911 call from the scene of the shooting in Saco. Investigators later collected DNA evidence from Owens that matched DNA on the outside door of the Chabots’ garage. They also collected DNA evidence from bloodstains on the steering wheel and armrest of Owens’ Hyundai Santa Fe and found wet boots in back, according to a report filed by FBI Agent Pamela Flick to obtain search warrants in the investigation.

Another witness, New Hampshire State Police Detective Patrick Hennessey, testified on Monday that he helped execute a search warrant at Owens’ New Hampshire home the day after the shooting and seized a black ski mask from the floor of a spare bedroom and found the same kind of ammunition, 9mm Western Cartridge Company rounds manufactured between 1987 and 1988, as had been used in the Saco shooting.

The trial presided over by Judge Nancy Torresen is expected to continue all week.


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