Delia Owens, 'Where the Crawdads Sing' Author, Wanted for Questioning Over 1996 Murder in Zambia

Delia Owens
Alberto E. Rodriguez/FilmMagic

Delia Owens, the famed author of the bestselling novel Where the Crawdads Sing, is wanted in Zambia for questioning over the 1996 murder of an alleged poacher.

The extraordinary set of events came to light after a damming report in The Atlantic, which confirmed with officials at the Criminal Investigation Department of the Zambian national police that Delia, her ex-husband, Mark, and Mark's adult son from his first marriage, Christopher, are wanted for questioning. Specifically, authorities tell the outlet that Delia, Mark and Christopher should be interrogated as possible witnesses, co-conspirators, and accessories to felony crimes for the alleged poacher's death and other possible criminal activities in the African region of North Luangwa.

ET has reached out to Delia for comment. 

This all stems from an ABC News documentary that aired in March 1996 and showed the murder of an alleged poacher, who was executed while lying collapsed on the ground. In that documentary, The Atlantic reported, the alleged poacher's identity is not disclosed nor is the person who fired the fatal shots off-camera. 

But in a 2010 report in The New Yorker, the outlet interviewed the ABC News cameraman who filmed the killing, and that cameraman pointed the finger at Christopher as the one who fired the fatal shots. What's more, a police detective in charge of the investigation reportedly concluded that Mark allegedly placed the victim's body in a cargo net, attached it to his helicopter and dropped it into a nearby lagoon. A former Zambian national police commissioner told The Atlantic that the death probe stalled because the body has never been found.

"The bush is the perfect place to commit murder," the ex-police commissioner reportedly said. "The animals eat the evidence."

As for how the Owens family found themselves in Zambia in the 1990s, the then-married couple was there as conservationists to save elephants from poachers and corrupt African officials. According to The Atlantic, Mark essentially commandeered a local militia to patrol a 2,400-square-mile park and get rid of poachers that crossed into the area, by any means necessary. Mark is also alleged to have led airborne raids against suspected poaching camps. The Atlantic also obtained a letter in which Mark allegedly bragged about the killing of poachers on his watch.

Delia denied she had anything to do with the killing of the alleged poacher when first interviewed about it 12 years ago in The New Yorker. "We don't know anything about it," she said. "The only thing that Mark ever did was throw firecrackers out of his plane, but just to scare poachers, not to hurt anyone." When confronted with the letter in which Mark is alleged to have bragged about the killing of poachers on his watch, Delia is quoted as saying, "Why don't you understand that we're good people? We were just trying to help."

The 1996 murder has also drawn similarities to the murder that takes place in Delia's popular 2018 novel, which has sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. In the novel, set in the 1950s, the protagonist, Kya Clark, lives in an isolated North Carolina swamp land and she, too, is accused of murder.

Delia's book has been adapted for the big screen, with Reese Witherspoon as the producer. The film by the same title his theaters Friday. 


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