Mark Owens, 57, received a mandatory life sentence after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder

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April 23, 2019 11:10 AM

A former corrections officer will spend the rest of his life in prison after killing his ex-wife with an axe.

Mark Owens, 57, received a mandatory life sentence after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, PEOPLE confirms. He confessed to killing his 48-year-old wife, Kim Penney, as she headed to work on the morning of Sept. 27, 2017.

Authorities alleged that Owens waited near Penney’s home in Chalmette, Louisiana. When she left the home, he ambushed her and attacked her with the axe. When he realized that his former mother-in-law had witnessed her daughter’s killing, he chased her. She was not injured and managed to call 911 as Owens fled.

Penney’s mother, Peggy Browning, addressed the court on Monday.

“I have to live with this. It happened in my driveway and every time I look outside or walk outside I see this over and over, every time I close my eyes,” Peggy Browning told the court, according to WWL-TV.

Browning said that Owens was a coward and she hoped he would burn in hell.

“I hope he rots there,” Browning said. “You don’t even want to know what I hope happens to him in jail. I hope that every day he’s miserable and has to watch over his shoulders.”

“Kim was an awesome person, so strong, loving, giving and faithful,” her sister, Penney said. “You don’t deserve to breathe the same air as the rest of us, and in fact you will not because you will spend the rest of your life locked up like an animal, under the control of someone else.”

According to the New Orleans Advocate, Penney’s family had long suspected that Owens was capable of murder. In 2015, he allegedly forced her into a home and threatened to harm himself with a weapon. After his arrest, he was placed into a pretrial diversion program instead of jail.

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Mark Owens
St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office

The Advocate reports that Owens, who once worked as a jail guard, had a history of mental illness and had been “confined to mental hospitals” multiple times.

St. Bernard Parish Sheriff James Pohlmann tells NOLA.com that Mark Owens was “a person with a lot of troubles,” and that deputies responded to multiple domestic disturbances involving him in the years before Penney’s murder.

Owens admitted that he had been distressed over his suspicion that Penney had an affair. He said he was consumed with thoughts of killing them, the Advocate reports.

After the guilty plea, the St. Bernard District Attorney Perry Nicosia released a statement praising the outcome. “I am pleased with the conviction and life sentence,” Nicosia said. “It allows the family to move forward without having to relive this horrible crime at trial.”

Owens’ attorney, Cullen Tonry, agreed that the guilty plea was the best outcome. “He agreed to a plea arrangement to spare Penney’s family further grief,” he told WWL-TV. “It’s sad — nothing positive could come from this.”

PEOPLE confirms that Owens will serve his sentence at the Wade Correction Center in northern Louisiana — a facility that houses a special unit for former law enforcement officers.

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