Mother, son drug dealing duo face charges of plotting to kill TBI agent
Accused Cocke County oxycodone dealer Clayton Carroll Owenby was of two minds when he allegedly plotted with his mother from behind bars to murder the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent he blames for putting him there, according to court documents.
One thought that crossed Owenby’s mind involved going out in a blaze of glory and assimilating into life behind bars as a star, according to a federal indictment, which names both Owenby, 44, and his 66-year-old mother, Kathleen Laws Garrett.
“If I’m gonna be in prison the rest of my life, I wanna be on the national news for taking these (expletives) out,” Owenby allegedly told his mother. “So you do what you have to do.”
Garrett was arrested Wednesday and made her initial appearance in federal court. She will remain incarcerated at least until her detention hearing on March 19. Owenby was already in jail on state oxycodone charges.
The conversations that led to their indictment were recorded on a jail telephone. Apparently, neither Owenby nor his mother was aware that law enforcement officials routinely record inmate telephone conversations.
Garrett allegedly was all-in with the plan to whack or incapacitate TBI Agent Matthew H. Thompson. She told her son “they need to be taken out,” to which Owenby replied, “(Expletive) right they do,” according to the indictment.
On one occasion, Owenby mused aloud that he might escape conviction “if something happened to Thompson,” the indictment states.
They apparently did not consider the probability Thompson likely was working with another narcotics investigator who would be familiar with the case, or that drug transactions that lead to federal indictments – like jail telephone calls – are frequently recorded.
Another big-picture matter that also eluded them was that instead of memorizing every relevant fact in a 10-defendant federal prosecution, narcotics agents tend to write things down and keep the fruits of their investigation in a case file.
Garrett wasn’t entirely a follower in the alleged plot to harm Thompson. She was capable of forming vengeful thoughts by herself, according to the indictment.
At one point, Garrett told her son, “Matt needs to realize that he has a family that could disappear at any time,” the indictment states.
Garrett also confirmed Thompson’s identity with her son, and then instructed another person to “write that down,” according to the indictment, which alleges the menacing comments were made between Feb. 21 and Feb. 26.
Federal prosecutors acted quickly, identified three instances in which Owenby and Garrett allegedly plotted to harm Thompson, and presented the evidence to a federal grand jury on Tuesday. They were indicted on Tuesday.
In October 2012 Owenby was found guilty of four counts of selling oxycodone in Cocke County Criminal Court. The federal charges likely mirror the state charges for which Owenby has already been found guilty.
Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Suzanne Kerney-Quillen recently made public her plans to use the felony convictions to seek an enhanced penalty for Owenby.
The federal prosecutor also indicated she considers Garrett an unindicted coconspirator in the alleged oxycodone conspiracy headed by 80-year-old Cocke County resident Ralph Teague.
The alleged scheme to obtain painkillers is unremarkable due to its pervasiveness in the Lakeway Area. Teague allegedly sponsored trips for oxycodone-seekers to out-of-state pain-management clinics in exchange for share of the pills.
-By Robert Moore, Tribune Staff Writer