Acquaintance, nephew of murder victim charged in Sept. 2015 cold case

Acquaintance, nephew of murder victim charged in Sept. 2015 cold case
(Source: Google Earth Pro)
(Source: Google Earth Pro)
Floyd Owen (L) and Charles Brandon Barham (R) (Source: Richland County)
Floyd Owen (L) and Charles Brandon Barham (R) (Source: Richland County)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Columbia Police Department has arrested and charged two men in connection with a September 2015 cold case.

Cold case investigators arrested Floyd Owen, 33, and Brandon Barham, 30, and charged them both in connection with the murder of Charles Kusko, whose body was found two days after his murder in September 2015.

Police Chief Skip Holbrook said despite the fact that the case had gone cold, it "evolved dramatically" in the past few months, leading to the arrest of the two men in this case.

Kusko was found following a welfare check, Holbrook said. CPD officers at the scene noted that it appeared someone had forced their way inside the Budon Court residence.

According to investigators, Owen broke into Kusko's home and shot him several times. While a motive has not yet been made clear, Holbrook said Owen and Kusko had gotten into a "heated and threatening" argument in the days before the murder.

Barham, Kusko's nephew, allegedly drove Owen to Kusko's house and also served as a lookout, Holbrook said.

Despite media efforts to get Kusko's murder into the public eye, leads dried up and the case was handed over to the cold case unit.

"The cold case unit provided a new set of eyes and a fresh start for reviewing case notes, crime scene photos, and more importantly, DNA evidence collected at the scene and tested by the State Law Enforcement Division," Holbrook said.

Following that review, investigators re-interviewed several people in connection with the case. During those interviews, Holbrook said, several implicated Owen in the crime. Owen was also wanted as a suspect in connection with a February 2017 armed robbery case, which led investigators to seek a warrant for his arrest.

Owen, Holbrook said, turned himself in on June 7 for the armed robbery case while investigators took out a murder warrant on him in connection with the Kusko case. He was then interviewed by police investigators and ultimately confessed to the crime, Holbrook said.

Holbrook thanked investigators for their work on this case, saying they did an "exceptional job" piecing together the seemingly complex crime.

"When I think back on their performance, it makes me think of words like professionalism, commitment, tenacity, thoroughness, and personal," Holbrook said.

Laurin Barnes, Kusko's daughter, called it a timely arrest just one week from Father's Day. She also calls it closure but said there's a long journey ahead.

"We miss him every single day," Barnes said. "All that my sister and I want is to have our dad back. But, now all that we can hope for is justice and today with these arrests, we are one step closer to that."

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