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Life sentence fuels a son's rage

TAMPA

The large man in a back row of the courtroom clenched his fist, tapped his foot and stared through wet eyes at the man in the jail uniform. He wanted to stand, but bailiffs had ordered him to sit down.

Even more, he wanted to be alone with the killer.

Michael Mink was here Friday morning because 2,697 days ago, he was supposed to have dinner with his 71-year-old mother, a woman who had just lost her husband, the only man she had loved for more than half a century.

Because it was Michael's turn, as her only son, to take care of her.

Because on that day, Sept. 11, 2003, Michael heard a scream at the other end of the phone coming from his sister Penny, who had just walked into their mother's South Tampa apartment through an open door.

Because when Michael rushed to the scene, he saw what Penny had, their mother nude, broken and lifeless, her golden hair so blood-soaked it was completely red.

For two years, Michael sat in a car outside her home, watching, waiting for a lead.

Just before Christmas in 2007, he learned authorities had captured her mother's murderer — Michael Lord Owens, a 47-year-old drifter with no ties to Tampa or his mother, who had left his fingerprints on a bottle of cheap wine and his DNA on her body.

The state had sought capital punishment for Owens for first-degree murder. And facing death, Owens decided to forego a trial, plead guilty to the killing, a burglary and two counts of rape — and take a life sentence.

Michael Mink wanted to be there for his three big sisters — to hold Arvella's hand as prosecutors read the grim facts; to support Debbie, who traveled all the way from Kansas but couldn't bear to sit in the courtroom; to watch Penny leave the hold of her own son to tell Owens how she felt:

"The amount of pain and anguish and nightmares you have caused," Penny Hammock said, "is too great to put into words."

Michael Mink, too, had something to say.

He reached into his jacket and pulled out some words he wrote at 3 a.m., when he couldn't sleep and could think only of how to contain himself in court.

He stood and walked up to a lectern, mere feet away from Owens.

And he began:

"9/11 is the day this great country mourns for its lost sons and daughters. To my family, not only do we mourn for our country, we mourn for our beloved mother, Dorothy Lee Rose Mink. …"

"She loved me so much, every time I saw her, she glowed like an angel. …"

"Let justice be served today with all the deals, handshakes and smiles to put this coward behind bars. But I call to almighty God by his laws of his Old Testament, Genesis 9:6, Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed. …"

"I was lucky that I was not the one who found him. …

"But as this coward goes to prison and he has a warm bed, hot meals and yard time, he must understand that all cell mates will know he is a mommy killer and rapist. …

"Then — as they bury the coward alone in a wooden box in some wetland swamp in Florida — then, justice will have been served."

After a wish of peace for his mom, Michael Mink walked away from the man in chains and returned to his sisters.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Life sentence fuels a son's rage 01/28/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 11:16pm]
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