Solane H. Verraine, 62, has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband, John W. Owings Jr., 65, known locally as musician Johnny Asia, at their home in Phoenicia. On November 19 at approximately 7:15 p.m., members of the Shandaken Police Department responded to a call from Verraine reporting a death at 46 Route 214. Shandaken police requested the assistance of Ulster County Sheriff’s Office detectives after determining that the death was suspicious.
Verraine was taken to the Ulster County Law Enforcement Center for questioning. According to a report from the sheriff’s office, “Further investigation revealed that the defendant poisoned the victim with a combination of alcoholic beverages and prescription drugs.” Verraine is being held without bail in the Ulster County Jail.
On November 22, she appeared before Justice Michael Miranda at the Shandaken town court. Her slim figure was clothed in an orange jumpsuit with orange rubber clogs, and her wrists and ankles were shackled. Four of her friends were present, and one called out to her from the front row, “We’re here to support you. We love you.”
On the advice of Verraine’s attorney, Kevin Harp, she waived the right to a preliminary hearing in order to allow him time to prepare a defense, and the case was rescheduled for January 19 at 3:30 p.m. at the Shandaken court. The location of the proceedings may change as a result of discussions among lawyers and judges. District Attorney Holley Carnright said he expects the case to go to a grand jury and confirmed that Verraine has no past criminal record.
Friends of the couple were stunned by Asia’s death and Verraine’s arrest. “I’m beyond shock,” said Kimberly Wendt of Woodstock, formerly a Phoenicia resident. “There’s nothing malicious about her spirit and heart. The energy and the love and the growth in love they exhibited to us consistently were true to a heart of love and not malice.”
According to Wendt, Asia, who had been ill for several years with Lyme disease and other chronic conditions, had been “giving up hope in the past week or two. She was afraid for him and asked for all of our prayers in helping him to pass into the light.” At 5:03 on the evening of Asia’s death, Verraine posted on Facebook, “Please light a candle for Johnny that he pass into the light. Thank-you. with all my heart.”
Wendt added, “The only thing plausible I can imagine is if he had the wish to stop suffering, he did something of his own accord, and if she was in the house when it happened, that was her only fault.”
Pamela Twining of Woodstock stated, “For several days she had said he was ‘very sick’ and we all responded with love, but never thought it was deathly! I don’t think she’d do anything to hurt him; they were so in love! I truly can’t see her hurting him.”
Verraine’s friend and neighbor Karin Wolf agreed, “She is a sweet person. I don’t believe she intentionally killed someone.”
Friends on Facebook mentioned often seeing the couple walking down the street in Phoenicia, arm in arm.
Phoenicia resident Marilyn Manning described Asia as “an amazing guitarist.” She has known him for 20 years and at one point hired him to paint her house. “He was very health-conscious,” she added. “He took supplements, and he used to walk for miles and miles.”