Albert Lewis Owens came to Whittier to start over. Recently discharged from the Army and divorced from his wife, who retained custody of the couple’s two daughters, he was ready for a new beginning, said his stepmother, Lora Owens. Owens had visited Southern California as a child, and it was the first place he thought of when he decided the time was right for something new. “The divorce was really traumatic. He wanted a new start,” “He just thought, going out there, he might be able to get his life back together and make things go right again.” So Owens packed up and left Missouri, his parents, brothers, his ex-wife and his two kids for a place where he had no friends, no history and no job. He settled in Whittier, for reasons still unknown to his stepmother, and found a job working the cash register counter at a 7-Eleven on Whittier Boulevard. His goal was to save money and regain custody of daughters Rebecca and Andrea, said his stepmother. Instead, the convenience store would prove to be the wrong place at the wrong time for Owens. As the 26-year-old was sweeping the store’s parking lot in the early morning of Feb. 28, 1979, four men went into the store. Owens followed them inside. One of the men, Stanley Tookie Williams, pointed a shotgun at Owens and directed him to lie down on the floor of a walk-in refrigerator at the back of the store. While his accomplices took $120 from the register, Williams chambered a round into his shotgun and fired into the security monitor. He chambered a second round and fired it into Owens’s back as he lay face down on the floor. Before leaving, he shot Owens again. According to the accomplices-turned-witnesses, Owens begged for his life before being murdered. After shooting Owens, Williams joked about the gurgling sounds the young man made as he lay dying on the floor. Eleven days later, Williams robbed the Brookhaven Motel on Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles, where he murdered live-in owners Yen-I Yang, 76, his wife, Tsai-Shai Yang, 63, and their daughter Yee-Chen Lin, 43. Now, 26 years later, as a small army of supporters, led by a host of Hollywood celebrities and activists, works diligently to persuade Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger to save Williams from a Dec. 13 execution, Lora Owens spends her days doing back-to-back media interviews. She says she is giving her side of the Tookie Williams story – the Albert Owens story. Between her 60-hour a week job, and with little sleep, Lora Owens spends hours on the phone, talking to reporters from all over the world. She is surrounded by piles of notes and records about the case. She pushes on with the help of her faith in God and her church, she said. The past year has been a nightmare, she said. “At first, it was unbelievable,” Owens said. “Then Hollywood decided to make a big production about it. I was like, `What? You’re kidding?’ Then, it became a nightmare.” She is determined that, amid the clamor for Williams’ life, no one forgets the red-headed, freckle-faced boy with sparkling eyes who loved “Star Wars.” As a young man, on visits home from the Army, Albert would show off to his brothers, she recalled. “His stepbrothers were young and he would do calisthetics,” Lora said in a telephone interview. “He’d show them how he learned to do it one-handed. He was so proud to be in the military.” As a man, Lora mostly recalls Albert as a father who adored his daughters. Shortly before he was murdered, Owens had visited his daughters in Missouri. Lora remembers spending time at home with him and the family. Now, she said, his daughters barely remember their dad. Charles Owens, Albert’s father, who died in 1995, was devastated by his son’s death, Lora said. Charles often asked her to call attorneys and detectives in the case. Before Charles died, he had made a stark and lasting request of her: “You’re not going to forget about Albert, are you?” Williams’ supporters argue that the Crips gang leader has been redeemed during his years on Death Row. A movie about his life, “Redemption,” starring Jamie Foxx, highlighted the positive aspects of Williams’ life in prison. He co-authored anti-gang children’s books and developed a peace process for rival gangs. To this day, Williams maintains he is innocent of murdering Owens and the Yang family. “For all four victims, it was a tragic loss of life, but Stan is not guilty of those murders,” said Cameron Sturdevant, spokesman for the Save Tookie Committee. “Stan has done much more to stop gang violence than the deputy district attorney who tried the case and police involved in the investigation. I would like to know one anti-gang book title they’ve written, or how many gang truces they’ve brokered,” he said. Sturdevant said he doesn’t believe the witnesses to the murders were credible, and he disputes that there was enough physical evidence to convict Williams in 1981. For Lora Owens, the debate over whether Williams should live or die boils down to her late husband’s last words to her. She believes Charles will never rest in peace until Williams is dead. “I’ll be standing at the execution in the name of Albert,” Lora said. “I think Albert would’ve expected me to be there. And if I’m the only person in the room, I won’t be alone.” Lora Owens said. [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3026 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!