Fairfax County Police are still searching for clues in the death of a Herndon flight attendant and union representative who fell from the third floor of a parking garage in Reston Friday at around 3:30 p.m.
While not ruling out foul play or suicide, investigators are calling the death of 44-year-old Terri L. Owen, "suspicious," and they insist that the circumstances surrounding Owen’s death are still under investigation. Authorities found no sign of a struggle at the scene, said Lt. Amy Lubas, a Fairfax County police spokesman.
Owen, a Dulles-based flight attendant with United Airlines, apparently died after falling from the upper levels of the four-level garage, police confirmed. "The autopsy revealed the cause of death was consistent with a fall," Lubas said Tuesday. The autopsy report confirmed that Owen was alive when she fell from the garage, but it could not determine whether or not Owen was conscious when she fell, police said.
According to police reports, a passerby discovered a Caucasian women’s body, later identified as that of Owen, lying on a concrete walkway outside of the Herndon-Monroe Street parking garage on Sunrise Valley Drive in the Reston area. When authorities found Owen’s lifeless body next to an elevator, she reportedly had no forms of identification on her person. Police did locate Owen's car parked in the garage near the scene of Owen's fall.
The garage and Connector bus terminal is less than two miles from Owen’s Worldgate condominium in Herndon. Popular with Washington-bound commuters, the park-and-ride facility offers direct access to the Dulles Toll Road.
On Monday afternoon, family members, who declined to comment, were at Owen’s Highcourt Lane second-floor apartment packing boxes and personal belongings into two cars before leaving the parking lot.
Owen was single and had owned her Herndon condominium since May of 1996, according to Fairfax County tax documents.
CARLOS ROMO WORKS in the management office at the Worldgate Condominiums and he said he had worked with Owen on several occasions. "You mean she was the one that fell from the parking garage? I am just in shock. I am in shock," Romo said. "She was very involved in the community, always very polite. We had a [home owners association] meeting here last week, but she wasn't there. I just can't believe it. "
Owen, a native of South Carolina and a graduate of Clemson University, had recently been an active member of the Fairfax County Tenant-Landlord Commission, according to county records. Established to give objective and fair assistance to the county’s tenants and landlords, the commission, in conjunction with the Department of Cable Communications and Consumer Protection, also receives, mediates and arbitrates tenant-landlord complaints. Katherine Hanley, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, appointed Owen to fill the unexpired term of Charles V. Smith as the Condo Owner Representative to the commission on June 17, 2002 after serving nearly two years as a citizen representative.
Cal Wagner, a staff member with the Fairfax County Consumer Protection Commission, says that Owen had resigned from the Tenant-Landlord Commission sometime in the previous six months after serving for about two years. County records show that Owen stepped down from her post in November 2002.
WAGNER SAID OWEN, besides being a flight attendant, was also "heavily involved" in the flight attendant's union as a representative. Dawn Deeks, a spokesman for the union of American Flight Attendants (AFA), AFL-CIO, the nation's largest such union representing more than 50,000 members, confirmed that Owen was at one time a staff negotiator in the AFA's Washington headquarters. Owen was also president of her local United Airlines council at Dulles, Deeks said.
"More recently, I understand she lost a re-election effort with her union and she had reverted back to being a flight attendant," Wagner said, adding that her return to flying may have been the reason for her resignation from the commission.
The AFA would not comment on Owen's death until the "investigation is wrapped up by the Fairfax County Police Department," said Deeks.
Wagner said Owen was always "very pleasant and conscientious" and she took an active roll in her duties on the commission. "Terri was a very warm, caring and concerned person," she said. "She certainly had no obligation to participate in the commission, but she felt concerned enough to give back to the community."