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Cowens sentenced to life in prison

Cowens sentenced to life in prison

Haleyville man found guilty of multiple sex crimes in July

Article contributed by The Journal Record  

By Kathryn Hirschfeld

Staff Writer


HAMILTON - Mickie Joe Cowens, 36, of County Highway 145 in Haleyville was sentenced to life in prison by Marion County Circuit Court Judge John Bentley on Thursday, Sept. 26, at the Marion County Courthouse in Hamilton.

Cowens was found guilty by a jury on July 24 of first-degree kidnapping and first-degree rape, first-degree sexual abuse and first- degree sodomy--all by forceable compulsion for events occurring on Sept. 24, 2012.

Neither the victim nor the defendant chose to speak before the sentencing.

Bentley noted during the sentencing that the charge for sexual assault by forceable compulsion was not used as a basis for the sentencing, as a lot of the facts that formed the basis of the sexual abuse charges were the same acts that formed the basis of the rape charges.

He also noted that, although Cowens had numerous run-ins with law enforcement, no habitual offender actions were considered--only sentencing guidelines for the kidnapping, rape and sodomy.

“The court has reviewed in detail the sentencing report, as well as the prison in-and-out work sheets for sodomy and rape,” said Bentley. 

“The court also takes notice of the victim’s impact report.

“Having reviewed all the materials that have been presented to the court in the sentencing report according to sentencing guidelines, the court hereby sentences you to a term in the state penitentiary for the rest of your natural life.

“The court also says that due to the licentious and sadistic conduct that was presented before the trial court, due to the obvious fascinations that you went through in an attempt to testify before a jury, and machinations far from the truth, you will spend the rest of your natural life in the state penitentiary of the State of Alabama.”

Bentley noted that Cowens would have 42 days to appeal the sentence.

Cowens had first told officers who responded to a 911 call--and then the jury--that he’d been in a fight with a friend over drugs and an episode of cooking methamphetamine to explain his injuries from struggling with Sartin.

This testimony was what Bentley referred to as his “machinations far from the truth.”

‘Justice was served’

“Justice was served in a Marion County Courthouse today,” said Marion County Assistant District Attorney Paige Vick to the Journal Record directly after the sentence was handed down.

“The citizens of Marion County should be aware that we don’t live in Mayberry and bad things do happen,” she noted.

“But the court system does work and this man will spend the rest of his natural life behind bars for these malicious, heinous and brutal acts. We won’t stand for this in Marion County.”

Vick also shared a few details of the ordeal  that led to Cowens’ life sentence.

One year ago--almost to the day of his sentencing-- Cowens had brutally bound Ashley Libby, also of Haleyville, with handcuffs in front of her toddler son, forced her into the bedroom of her home and locked the door.

While her son screamed and cried for his mother, Cowens, who had cuffed his victim’s hands behind her back, continued to tighten the cuffs again and again, forcing the metal deeper and deeper into her skin, as she struggled to escape.

Attempting and succeeding in various degrees at times to sexually assault her, sodomize her and have her perform oral sex on him, Cowens also continually threatened to perform the same acts on her then 15-month-old son, if she refused.

Libby was also beaten so badly during the encounter that her jaw was knocked out of place.

She was rescued by her husband, Jeffery Sartin, who kicked down the door and saw her handcuffed and with her pants pulled down.

Sartin, who had left the home for approximately 40 minutes with Cowens passed out in a bedroom, was also attacked by Cowens, who came out behind the bedroom door and jumped on his back.

Sartin was able to grab a pipe and fight off Cowens, knocking him to the floor and telling him to get out of his home.

Sartin then attempted to help his wife, who was going into shock, and removed the handcuffs that were embedded deeply into her skin during her struggles.

“He was able to cut the connecting chain with a bolt cutter, but not until the couple went to the Haleyville Police Department, and a skeleton key was found, were they able to free her,” said Vick.

“By that time, she was notably pale and beginning to pass out. She was taken to the emergency room at Lakeland Community Hospital then.”

Vick concluded her review of the incidents by remarking, “Short of murder, there is nothing else he could have done to the victim. She will relive this moment for the rest of her life.”

The assistant district attorney also thanked the various departments that assisted with the case, which included the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, the Haleyville Police Department, Marion County E-911, and Lakeland Community Hospital and its staff.

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