Conviction in 1987 murder of Nancy Eileen Converse

Nancy Eileen Converse

Nancy Eileen Converse

A man who strangled Nancy Eileen Converse to death 23 years ago was sentenced to two decades in prison, after Portland’s Cold Case Unit dug into the case and matched his DNA to the crime scene.

James Samuel Owens, 67, pleaded no contest last month to first-degree manslaughter in the death of 42-year-old Nancy Eileen Converse. She was found dead on Feb. 2, 1987.

Portland police detectives questioned more than 300 neighbors, friends and others – including Owens, then a 44-year-old acquaintance of Converse’s – but couldn’t peg Owens to the crime even though they suspected him. The technology to make a DNA match wasn’t in place yet.

In 2006, the bureau’s Cold Case Unit began investigating the case and submitted DNA found at the scene. The state crime lab matched it to Owens, but getting a conviction also required tracking down witnesses – some who’d scattered across the country over they years and who were reluctant to speak. Investigators believe Owens raped Converse before killing her. However, there is no information about that.

Owens has been in prison since 1989 for raping another woman he knew. He was scheduled to be released next year. Read the article here.