Former Midway assistant fire chief Charles David Owens, 41, and his girlfriend, 37-year-old Jennifer Bay, were convicted recently on child molestation charges in a Gadsden County court. Bay was not a firefighter but was a member of the fire department’s auxiliary and sometimes spokesperson for the department.
Circuit Judge Jon Sjorstrom sentenced Owens to 15 years for lewd and lascivious battery and 36 months probation for lewd and lascivious molestation to run consecutively. Owens was given credit for the 256 days he had spent in the county jail. Bay was convicted of two (lesser) counts of unnatural and lascivious acts. She will serve 120 days in jail on two 60-day terms and given credit for 29 days she has served in the county jail.
The June 19, 2012, arrest of Owens followed an investigation conducted by the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office. He was charged with 25 counts of sexual assault on a juvenile and 25 counts of possession of pornography. Bay was charged with five counts of sexual assault on a juvenile. The arrest of Owens followed charges uncovered by the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office.
The 14-year-old victim, who was a member of the fire department’s Explorer’s Program, told authorities she was approached by Bay at a fire department function and asked if she would like to “be with” an older man and a woman. The girl said she met with Bay at Owens’ home, and the couple committed lewd acts on the child at least five times, according to the arrest affidavit.
It was not clear why the girl was allowed in the Explorer’s Program when participation is limited to those between 15 and 18 years of age.
The girl said Bay became upset because of the attention Owens was giving the juvenile. Bay eventually left the home, and the girl stayed on and referred to Owens as her “boyfriend.”
City of Midway officials said they had heard of the rumors involving Owens and terminated him April 30, 2012. No one in the city attempted to investigate Owens’ past record, and background checks were completed on volunteer firefighters.
Auburn Ford Jr., Midway’s city manager at the time of the arrest, said he checked Owens’ record after he left the fire department.
“He has a pretty lengthy rap sheet,” Ford said. “He has served 33 months in the Florida Department of Corrections for illegal weapons, and there were a couple of charges like trespassing that were dropped. He was arrested somewhere in South Florida by a Miami Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms field agent.”