ANDERSON – Calling the case the “worst of the worst,” Madison Circuit Court Judge David Happe sentenced Willie Terrell Owens to the maximum penalty for the murder of Tommie Griffin.

Happe sentenced Owens, 36, on Thursday to 90 years with the Indiana Department of Correction for the Jan. 1, 2019, shooting of Griffin.

Owens was sentenced to 65 years on the murder charge; 12 years each on two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon; and one year for false informing. The sentences are to be served consecutively.

Owens informed the court that he wants to file an appeal.

Several times during the hearing, Happe warned Owens to be quiet during testimony from this mother and from Griffin’s family.

“There is nothing I can do to ease the pain of both families,” Happe said. “The evidence proves beyond a doubt that he (Owens) committed the murder.”

Happe said the motive for the shooting is not clear. He said Griffin showed kindness to Owens, adding that the shooting was an unprovoked ambush.

“You showed disrespect to the family members,” Happe said to Owens. “You could have shown respect. You choose not to do that, which speaks to your character.”

Happe said the Indiana Court of Appeals encourages discretion in imposing maximum sentences.

“Worst of the worse is an apt description of the case,” the judge said. “It was senseless and avoidable.”

In a statement to the court, Owens maintained there was no physical evidence that he committed the crime.

“This is crazy,” he said. “Not one person testified they saw me kill this man.”

Griffin’s mother and two sisters, all dressed in pink in honor him, testified in support of the maximum sentence.

Griffin’s mother, Joyce, said she misses her son every day.

“He loved me and I loved him,” she said. “I miss the day-to-day interaction.”

Joyce Griffin said Owens would have to answer to one more judge — God.

“I want justice for Tommie,” she said. “Your family can visit and write to you. To see Tommie, I have to go to the cemetery.”

Authorities said the two Anderson men weren’t friends, but they frequented some of the same places socially and knew the same people.

The night before Griffin’s death, he and Owens celebrated New Year’s Eve at the same bar with their friends and both ended up at a party in Anderson the morning of Jan. 1, 2019.

After a fight between two girls caused the party to break up, Griffin invited Owens and Owens’ friend, Keonte Matthews, to his place to continue partying. Prosecutors said Griffin did not know that Owens had felt slighted by Griffin prior to the shooting.

Witnesses testified during the trial that Owens was in Griffin’s car before the shooting. After they heard the gunshots that killed Griffin, Owens jumped inside their vehicle and told them to drive away as he talked about “head shots.”

The witnesses also said Owens told them what to say if they were interviewed by police.

Follow Ken de la Bastide

on Twitter @KendelaBastide,

or call 765-640-4863.

Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.

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