(above: front yard of Cowen’s house where he lived with Sabrina and his mother)
Updated 10/30/19, 1:00 pm, see last paragraph.
On Oct. 8th, Sheriff deputies went to a home in Cardiff where 43-year old Sabrina Lukosky was living with her boyfriend, Henry Cowen, age 41, who is known to neighbors as “Israel”. They were investigating reports of a bad smell.
Ultimately, they found Sabrina’s decomposed body in a backyard shed, along with signs of a struggle. The Sheriff later confirmed it was a homicide by strangulation and blunt-force trauma. Cowen had fled but was later arrested in Riverside, CA.
Sabrina’s friends knew she was in an abusive relationship and tried to get her to end it. On October 3rd, her mother reported her missing to the Sheriff’s Department. About a week later, neighbors began calling about the smell.
The owner of the house is Cowen’s mother, Sally, who also lives there. Neighbors report that except for a brief visit to retrieve some filled trash bags, she has not returned to the house and has not been arrested, as of now.
Some of the neighbors met with us but asked to remain anonymous. They said in the days leading up to the discovery of the body, they called the Sheriff several times to report a bad smell coming from the property. Sheriff’s deputies came to the house two different times but Cowen’s mother would not allow them to search her property.
For at least 10 days, Sally lived with the corpse. As the smell got worse, she would sit for long periods of time in her car parked out in the street.
Finally, on the deputies’ third visit, they brought a search warrant and broke into the shed in Cowen’s backyard. By then, Sabrina’s body was so badly decomposed that one of the officers began vomiting in the backyard. Cowen had already fled but was arrested a few days later in Riverside.
Neighbors say the property has been a problem for years and they suspected Cowen was dealing drugs. Cars would arrive late at night and a quick exchange would take place in the alley near the shed, then the car would leave quickly. And, it was common to hear people at the house fighting and shouting.
They also told us that the conversion of the garden shed to a living space and the original garage to a bedroom were never permitted by the City, and they called many times to the City to complain. City officials would come out and get frustrated over Sally’s belligerent behavior, then leave doing nothing.
Today, neighbors report that the smell is still very bad and now there is a fly problem – hundreds of flies can be seen around Cowen’s backyard. A group of neighbors met with City Councilmember Jody Hubbard and Sheriff Captain Herb Taft earlier this week asking for help in getting the shed cleaned up. Unfortunately, both Jody Hubbard and Sheriff Taft said there is little they can do at this point.
We’ll update this story as we learn more…
Update 10/30/19, 1:00 pm
Today, Councilmember Jody Hubbard called one of the neighbors who attended that meeting yesterday with Sheriff Taft. She said that she asked the City to “jump through hoops” to find a way to enter the property and clean up the backyard shed. She also said that the City Manager worked hard to find a solution, including phone calls to the County Hazmat teams. In the end, she apologized and said that, legally, the City cannot enter the property at this point.