Syracuse man charged with murdering teen on Christmas Eve

Letisha Hayes / family photo

Syracuse Police have made an arrest in a Christmas Eve homicide.

38-year-old Craig Owens has been charged with second degree murder in the death of 18-year-old Letisha Hayes. Police say Owens has 30 prior arrests for assault, drugs and one unlawful imprisonment, he also has a history of domestic violence.

Police found the victim unconscious and severely beaten Saturday morning at 144 Steuben Street, that's on the city's northside.

Hayes later died at the hospital of severe head and facial trauma.

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler says people who were nearby heard loud music, banging, and even crying, but no one dialed 911 until it was too late.

"You would think seeing someone in this condition would make someone call 911," says Fowler. "They all deeply regret not doing more but where does that get us now?"

Police say Hayes was staying in the same room as Owens. Hayes' sisters say she was staying with Owens and his sister, but they say she was not in a relationship with him.

Tiffany Phillips, Hayes' sister, says Hayes was about to go back to school to get her G.E.D. She dreamed of getting a college degree in criminal justice.

"A lot of people know Letisha, they know the type of person she was" says Phillips. "She was a good kid, never got into trouble. Tried to do the right thing."

Phillips says she met Owens several times, but she never noticed any red flags. When she learned about his criminal history, she wondered why he was out on the street.

Loren Cunningham, an education director for Vera House, says a lot of times, people who have abused in the past aren't in jail.

"We know that the vast majority of people who commit domestic violence offenses and sexual offenses are not in prison," says Cunningham. "They're our neighbors, they live right in our community. They're our family members, they're our friends, and so the assumption that if someone's abusive, they're in jail, just isn't a reality."

Cunningham says people should look for any type of emotional or verbal abuse, name calling, putdowns, controlling behavior, or isolation. She also says people can call Vera House at (315) 468-3260 if they need help or would like counseling.

As for Owens, he is being held without bail at the Onondaga County Justice Center.