Pr. George’s woman arrested in April slaying of popular Bladensburg shop owner

July 11, 2011

A 23-year-old Hyattsville-area woman told detectives that she stabbed and beat a Bladensburg convenience store owner in April, then torched the store to cover up the slaying, Prince George’s Police officials said Monday.

Ashley D. Owens has been charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of 69-year-old Richard Changsun Nam, who police said was stabbed with a box cutter and beaten with a chain saw. Police said the two were acquaintances, and a dispute led to the slaying. They declined to say what the dispute was about.

The gruesome killing stood out among others in Prince George’s County because of the case’s odd circumstances and because Nam was well-known in Bladensburg and in the Korean American community. Police were first tipped to the incident by firefighters, who found Nam’s body inside his Check Experts store late on April 8 after extinguishing a fire there. They quickly realized Nam’s injuries were not from smoke and fire alone, and they called Prince George’s County homicide detectives to investigate, authorities said.

“This kind of heinous crime is very hurtful to the community,” said Jeff Ahn, who spoke on behalf of the Korean American Association of Greater Washington at a news conference police held Monday. “We have been suffering.”

Surveillance video and witnesses were key in tipping investigators to Owens’s alleged involvement, said Maj. Michael Straughan, commander of the Prince George’s County police’s criminal investigations division. He said Owens eventually told detectives she stabbed Nam with a box cutter, beat him with a chain saw, then used gasoline to set fire to his store in the 5400 block of Annapolis Road.

Owens also told police that she took more than $2,000 from the store, Straughan said, but he said detectives do not believe robbery was a primary motive. “We believe the murder occurred over the dispute,” Straughan said. He declined to elaborate.

A relative of Nam was killed in 2002 during a daytime robbery at the Bladensburg store, though that case is not connected to Nam’s slaying, police said.

Straughan said Owens appears to have acted alone. He said investigators believe the box cutter and chain saw were inside the store and that Owens bought the gasoline elsewhere, after Nam was incapacitated.

Efforts to reach Nam’s and Owens’s family members Monday were unsuccessful.

Court records show that Owens, who is also charged with first-degree arson and armed robbery, was jailed on June 30 and remains incarcerated.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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