Motions hearing held in case of Watertown man charged with murder

July 25, 2023
Mike Tanner

WATERTOWN, S.D.–A motions hearing was held today for a Watertown man facing a murder charge in the death of 28 year-old Kendra Owen.

Owen was found dead at her residence in the 300 block of North Broadway in Watertown on September 2nd, 2020. Police were called there to conduct a welfare check after friends and family had not seen or heard from her.

Retired Watertown Police Captain Chad Stahl took the witness stand today. He testified that after being dispatched to Owen’s residence and seeing her body, he determined it was, “not a normal unattended death.”  Stahl said Owen’s body was “severely decomposed.”

Stahl testified that a few days prior to the discovery of Owen’s body, 43 year-old Jeremiah Peacemaker (pictured) had called police to say he’d been hit by a car about a half block south of where Owen lived.

After the discovery of Owen’s body, Stahl testified that he went to Peacemaker’s residence to talk to Peacemaker about his claim that he’d been hit by a car, and said Peacemaker voluntarily rode to the police station to be interviewed about that incident. But once he was there, police questioned and interrogated him for some eight hours before eventually reading Peacemaker his Miranda Rights, and arresting him for Owen’s murder.

During cross examination, defense attorney Scott Bratland suggested his client was, “tricked” or “lied to” about why he was being brought to the police station for questioning. Bratland contends it was not about Peacemaker being hit by a car, but to be questioned about Owen’s death.

Stahl acknowledged the strategy investigators used to get him to the police station was a, “law enforcement tool,” but he also said while Peacemaker was being questioned, he was not handcuffed, not under arrest, and had not yet been charged with any crime.

He told Assistant Attorney General Kelly Marnette during questioning that Peacemaker often referred to women acquaintances by their hair style, at one point referring to a woman with, “pink hair,” which was the color of Owen’s hair.

Investigators had previously characterized the relationship between Peacemaker and Owen as, “recent acquaintances” prior to Owen’s death.

Stahl said on the day Owen was killed, she was with Peacemaker at Doc’s Bar, where the defendant had gone to, “get beer,” before they both ended up at her apartment.

The state introduced several photos as evidence during today’s motions hearing, including a photo showing Owen’s body at the time of her death. Those exhibits will remain sealed.

Judge Carmen Means gave prosecutors and the defense team 10 days to submit written arguments about what items should, nor should not, be allowed as evidence during Peacemaker’s trial, which begins September 7th.

Peacemaker is charged through a Grand Jury indictment with First Degree Murder which made him eligible to receive the death penalty if convicted. But Attorney General Marty Jackley, who’s now leading the prosecution team, tells KWAT News the state has determined it will not pursue capital punishment in this case.

Judge Means ruled neither side will be required to submit a witness list or a list of exhibits prior to trial, and that Peacemaker will be allowed to wear street clothes and will not be handcuffed at trial. However, he will wear a, “security device” that will not be visible to the jury.

Jackley expects the trial could last up to two weeks.

Peacemaker remains in custody at the Codington County Detention Center, where he’s being held on $1 million cash only bond.