Former Nome officer faces 99 years for teen's murder

Posted: Tuesday, April 18, 2006

NOME - A former Nome police officer was sentenced Monday to 99 years in prison for the execution-style killing of a 19-year-old woman.

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Matthew Owens, 30, bucked his lawyer's advice not to address the court before sentencing.

"I pleaded innocent from day one and that's not gonna change. I am not guilty," he said.

"I know that the family suffers but I'm not the reason for their suffering," said Owens, who later showed no emotion as Superior Court Judge Ben Esch handed down the sentence.

A jury in Kotzebue found Owens guilty in December of first-degree murder in the 2003 death of Unalakleet-native Sonya Ivanoff. He was accused of picking her up in his police cruiser and then killing her on the outskirts of town with a single shot to the head.

He was also found guilty of evidence tampering; he received an additional two years on his sentence for stealing a police car in an attempt to divert the attention of investigators away from him.

The victim's father, Larry Ivanoff, argued that Owens should never be released from jail.

"My whole family still has a tough time with this. My wife is still crying on my shoulder. A person who has done such an awful thing should never be allowed to be in public again," he said.

Owens will be eligible for parole in 34 years.

During Monday's proceedings in a densely packed court room, prosecutor Rick Svobodny also argued for the maximum sentence of 99 years, saying that it is by law the only sentence for murdering a police officer.

"If you kill a police officer you get 99 years," Svobodny said. "For a police officer on active duty, to commit the worst crime, it should be the same sentence, and he should get 99 years of incarceration."

Svobodny said Owens was not a cop gone bad but that he was bad to begin with, using his position of authority to meet women, entice them into his patrol car and coerce them into having sex with him

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