By Robert Hamilton
CW: sexual assault
On Highway 111, north of the community college, there is an old, abandoned house, which used to be belonged to the Owen family. On July 22, around 1:00 a.m., as a reserve sheriff deputy assigned to the patrol division, I was dispatched to a woman screaming for help near this residence, an older three-bedroom house built maybe in the 50s. Upon my arrival, I contacted the residents of the house Nathan and Melissa Owen and their children. Nathan reported that they both heard a woman scream for help by the highway. He went out of the house to help the woman while his wife, Melissa, called for help. Nathan said he checked the area and saw no one on his property and did not see anyone parked on the roadway. He said the screams stopped when he went outside to investigate. He also said the screams sounded close to his residence. This was about fifteen minutes before the other deputies arrived.
While he was giving me his report, I could tell this man was scared; his eyes were wide, and he was trembling. He said the screams were loud and terrifying. Melissa was in tears and their children, who had been woken by the screams, were crying. Backup units arrived within minutes. Melissa and the children watched trough the living room windows as a search was conducted on the property and the along the highway, but no woman was located. We checked the rear of the house. We made our presence known so the children knew why we were there. I told the children no one was on the property. I told the children the incident with the screams was a bad joke that someone was playing. Melissa knew it was not the truth but agreed as the children were calming down. The call was listed as a suspicious circumstance. This is a call I will never forget.
Two years later, Deputy Eric Rowe was on patrol in the south county area of Imperial County. Deputy Rowe was twenty-six years old, a levelheaded deputy with the respect from his fellow officers. Deputy Rowe radioed that he had just hit a woman walking on Highway 111. It was approximately 1:00 a.m. All south county units responded along the highway patrol and fire rescue. While responding, Deputy Rowe radioed that he was looking, but he could not find the victim.
As the responding units continued to arrive a massive search for the victim was conducted. On the highway, we could see the skid marks from Deputy Rowe’s patrol car, indicating a panicked stop. But there was no damage to the patrol car to indicate an accident. No blood or fluids on the road. And no victim was ever located.
After the incident, Deputy Rowe became withdrawn and seemed to be in a constant state of confusion. He would not conduct routine patrols and would only respond to calls from the dispatch office; he would not leave the office. He was eventually reassigned to a different division. After Deputy Rowe had received therapy for this incident, he was reassigned to the patrol division.
A year later, almost to the day of the “accident,” a radio call came into dispatch from Deputy Rowe. He advised that he had just hit a woman on Highway 111 near the college. After the radio call, Deputy Rowe would not or could not answer his radio. The dispatcher tried to raise Deputy Rowe on the radio. He did not answer. In the meantime, all units responded, including the sheriff who had been at home asleep. As the responding units arrived, Deputy Rowe was still seated in his patrol car staring out the windshield. He was in shock but after about five minutes Rowe was talking, and the medics confirmed he was not injured. Like before, skid marks were on the roadway but there was no damage to the car. A thorough search was conducted despite Rowe’s objections that there was no reason to look for a victim. Deputy Rowe described the victim. She wore a flowered dress and brown hair and about forty-five years old. She was in the road, and she turned as he hit her. He heard a scream and the lady passed through the patrol car. Chills ran down my spine. The description of the lady was identical to the description Deputy Rowe had given the year before. Deputy Rowe was transported by ambulance to the hospital and treated for shock. No victim was ever located.
A record’s check of the area was done. In the 1970s, a woman was raped and murdered on the property where the Owen’s lived. The killers were caught and gave the following confession:
The two killers took the victim to the then vacant house and assaulted her.
Being ruthless, they continued their torture of the poor lady before allowing her to run toward the highway, letting her think they were letting her go.
The killers chased her, and as they got closer, she screamed for help.
The victim almost got away when a sheriff’s car passed, patrolling the highway.
The killers ducked behind a large bush thinking the victim had flagged down the deputy.
But when the patrol car passed, the killers knew the victim had not been seen and they grabbed the victim, dragging her to side of the house and stabbed her to death.
The killers said that her dying words were that she cursed them for what they did.
They also said she put a curse on the police who did not help her.
Both killers were convicted and sent to prison. One of the killers went insane and committed suicide. No record of what happened to the other one was available.
Thinking about the patrol car that passed by the Owen house on that highway failing to save the woman, I often wondered if deputy Rowe was the driver on that fateful night. He was the only deputy to ever see or hit the woman in the flower dress. Was this a curse from a tortured soul, a victim that could not be saved, a soul not at rest?
Robert Hamilton was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and grew up in a small village called Wappinger Falls. After his parents divorced, he moved to Florida before making Southern California home. There, he fulfilled his dream of becoming a Deputy Sheriff. Fifteen years later his career came to a crashing end after experiencing a job-related injury that caused him to be Honorably retired. As a Deputy, Robert saw and heard thing that were unexplained and without explanation: ghosts, evil, and just strange things. This was not new to him, as he had seen and heard things as a small child. Psychic? No, he’d be rich. Robert enjoys reading stories of the unexplained and flying his drone.