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Inside the Delia Owens Murder Investigation

Delia Owens

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Delia Owens has found mainstream success as the author of Where the Crawdads Sing, the hit book-turned-film starring Daisy Edgar-Jones. However, all of the renewed attention for the film has brought a complex and shocking story from Delia’s past back into the spotlight. Years ago, Delia left Zambia, Africa after being linked to a murder investigation. The Zambian government is still looking for her for questioning.

Before becoming a bestselling author, Delia and her husband Mark Owens were zoologists and conservationists in Africa, originally in Botswana before moving to Zambia. There the couple got involved in the fight against elephant poachers. According to an article published in The Atlantic in July, Mark had “gradually come to command a corps of wildlife scouts in North Luangwa, outside the Zambian government’s oversight, buying their loyalty by providing arms, boots and money. The couple, writes Jeffrey Goldberg, had essentially “militarized the 2,400-square-mile park.” They were eventually joined in the country by Mark’s son from his first marriage, Christopher Owens, who became part of their fight against poachers.

The end of their time in Africa began when the Owenses wrote about their conservation work in their 1992 memoir The Eye of the Elephant, which led to a feature in an episode of the ABC News documentary Turning Point in 1996. The episode ends with a clip of a man, who is said to be a poacher but also credited in the episode’s script as an intruder, being executed on camera by a gunshot by an unknown assailant.

Shortly after the episode was filmed, the Owenses left Zambia. The documentary sparked the ongoing police investigation into the family’s activities, and the victim’s body was never found. In 2010, Goldberg published an investigative article titled “The Hunted” in The New Yorker about the murder.

Goldberg’s investigation found that the Owens family’s actions toward poachers were frequently aggressive and even violent, which the Owens have denied.

Today, Mark, Delia and Christopher are still wanted for questioning in Zambia. “There is no statute of limitations on murder in Zambia,” Lillian Shawa-Siyuni, Zambia’s chief prosecutor, told Goldberg, according to The Atlantic. For his 2010 article, Goldberg said Delia told him the family knew “nothing about” the murder. “The only thing Mark ever did was throw firecrackers out of his plane, but only to scare poachers and not hurt anyone.” Delia also said, “Chris wasn’t there. We don’t even know where this event took place. It was terrible to have shot a person like that.” In 2019 she again denied any involvement to the New York Times. According to The Atlantic, Mark and Christopher’s lawyers have previously denied their involvement. POPSUGAR has not independently reached out to Mark and Christopher for comment.

Readers of Where the Crawdads Sing have noted some similarities between the book and the details of the murder. Where the Crawdads Sing is about Kya Clark, a girl growing up alone on the wild North Carolina coast. She eventually becomes involved in a murder investigation when one of her lovers is found dead. Ultimately (spoiler alert!) the truth is revealed: Kya committed the murder. Her actions are presented in the novel as worthy of circumstances, and she escapes punishment for the crime.

There are other echoes of Delia’s past in “Where the Crawdads Sing”. A character in the story named Sunday Justice shares the same name as a man who worked as a cook for the Owenses in Africa. True justice is also mentioned in the Owenses’ memoir, The Eye of the Elephant. However, in the memoir, Justice’s speech is compared to that of a child, and he seems impressed by the Owenses’ journey on an airplane. The real judiciary countered his account, telling Goldberg he flew on airplanes as a child and was in the Zambian Air Force.

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, Daisy Edgar-Jones, 2022. Ph: Michele K. Short / Sony Pictures Entertainment /courtesy Everett Collection

Image Credit: Everett Collection

All of this forms a contradictory web of details that tie Delia’s real life and writing together, adding complexity to the story of Where the Crawdads Sing. These details could be interpreted in many different ways, but one thing is clear: there is more to this story than meets the eye.

Delia, who has yet to publicly address the similarities between the murder controversy and the book, has herself acknowledged the larger context of her work. “Almost every part of the book has a deeper meaning,” the author said in a 2019 interview with Amazon. “There is a lot of symbolism in this book.”

https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/where-the-crawdads-sing-delia-owens-murder-investigation-48886809 Inside the Delia Owens Murder Investigation

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