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Man accused of soliciting uncle’s death barred from contact

A Johnson City man accused of a murder-for-hire plot appeared in court Tuesday, where he was ordered to have no contact with the man prosecutors allege he was targeting.
Thomas Kenneth “T.K.” Owens was arrested in August 2013 and charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder after a joint investigation by the Carter County Sheriff’s Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
According to investigators, Owens gave $500 to an undercover officer, with a promise to pay an additional $2,000, in return for the murder of Owen’s uncle, CCSD Deputy Ernest Widby.
During Owens’ court appearance, Assistant District Attorney Janet Hardin asked that he be given instructions “in open court” to refrain from attempting to contact Widby. Hardin and Owens’ attorney of record, David Robbins, told presiding Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood they both agreed with the instructions to refrain from contacting the victim.
“You cannot have any contact with Mr. Widby,” Blackwood then told Owens, adding that this included phone calls, letters or any other means of communication.
Hardin said there was particular concern regarding Owens “using other inmates as a conduit” to pass communications to Widby.
“I have never done that,” Owens said. “Other inmates know of our relationship and they will strike up a conversation.”
Blackwood stopped Owens’ response, and told him “the best thing for you to do is to say ‘no comment.’”
Robbins then suggested to the court that Owens be transferred from the Carter County Detention Center, where both he and Widby are known, to the Washington County Detention Center in order to help resolve the issue, and Hardin agreed the transfer might help resolve the situation.
Blackwood said he would issue a order directing Owens to be transferred to the Washington County Detention Center for housing.