An appellate court panel upheld the murder conviction Friday for a man found guilty in the death of his girlfriend, whose body was found inside an Encinitas home.
Henry Cowen, 44, was convicted by a Vista jury of first-degree murder for the death of 43-year-old Sabrina Lukosky, who was reported missing by her family on Oct. 3, 2019. Cowen was sentenced in 2021 to 55 years to life in state prison.
Less than a week after Lukosky disappeared, San Diego County sheriff’s deputies were alerted to a foul odor near the home on Summit Avenue. Lukosky’s body was found inside a granny flat located behind Cowen’s mother’s home.
An autopsy revealed she had been strangled and several of her ribs had been broken.
A warrant was obtained for Cowen’s arrest and he was taken into custody in Riverside about three days after the victim’s body was discovered.
According to an opinion issued Friday by a three-justice panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Cowen testified that Lukosky threatened to kill him and tried to cut his throat with a broken bottle. He testified that he punched her in self-defense.
On appeal, Cowen contended that the prosecution was improperly allowed to present evidence indicating Cowen’s mother tried to impede the police’s investigation into Lukosky’s disappearance. The panel’s opinion states Cowen’s mother denied knowing who Lukosky was when investigators asked, didn’t allow law enforcement onto the property and was generally uncooperative.
Cowen’s defense attorney at trial objected, arguing her actions might imply to jurors that Cowen was guilty.
The appellate panel wrote in its opinion that Cowen’s testimony placed him at the crime scene and that the case revolved around his actions at the time of Lukosky’s death, not his mother’s actions that occurred afterwards.
The appellate panel also rejected contentions that jurors were improperly allowed to hear evidence of prior domestic violence involving Cowen. Jurors heard an ex-girlfriend’s testimony that he strangled her and testimony indicating Lukosky was seen wearing dark glasses and makeup on one occasion, indicating she was trying to conceal injuries.
The appellate panel wrote that evidence was “neither as strong or more inflammatory than the testimony concerning Lukosky’s death by strangulation.”