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Former Bachelor star Clayton Echard wins paternity suit in Valley

A Maricopa County judge issued a 19-page decision finding that the woman knowingly falsely claimed Clayton Echard had made her pregnant.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A Scottsdale man who once appeared on “The Bachelor” has won a paternity lawsuit, and the woman who filed the suit may face criminal charges.

The lawsuit was filed in August 2023 by Laura Owens, who claims that Clayton Echard impregnated her. The judge issued a shocking 19-page ruling finding that Owens did not bring the lawsuit in good faith and knowingly made false allegations and gave false testimony.

“I just felt something was wrong. I just didn't realize how wrong it was.”

Echard had moved to the Valley after his breakup following season 26 of The Bachelor, in which he starred. A few weeks after getting his real estate license, he received a LinkedIn message from Owens asking to work together.

“I was very naive, so I figured because I'm a former Bachelor, because I'm a celebrity, it's only natural that people would want to do business with me, so I replied to the message,” Echard said.

Echard said the conversation turned flirtatious and she ended up going to his house.

“There were some incidents but no sex. Then the next day I told her it was a mistake and it couldn't be any more and she said she wanted to give it a chance and go on a date. I said no. She started crying and I knew at that point something was wrong. I didn't realize how wrong it was,” Echard said.

Eleven days later, Owens told Echard she was pregnant.

“I couldn't believe what happened that night. I said, 'That can't really happen,'” Echard said.

Echard requested an ultrasound and, once the pregnancy was confirmed, a paternity test. Meanwhile, she said, she received multiple daily texts from Owens, including one proposing a dating contract.

“She actually drew up a dating contract and typed it up, and it basically said, 'Date me for a week, and if we date and it doesn't work out, I'll have an abortion, but if you don't date me, I'm going to have this baby,'” Echard said.

Owens eventually told Echard she was pregnant with twins and emailed her what appeared to be an ultrasound video, which Echard later learned was a YouTube video from years ago, which he confirmed with the original poster.

“Either they're the craziest women I've ever met or they're telling the truth, so I kept going back and thinking I'd never meet any women on that level of crazy, but I did,” Echard said.

Echard learns of other incidents and files paternity lawsuit

Owens filed a paternity lawsuit in August and made the allegations publicly through the tabloids.

“I was guilty until proven innocent. Everyone on the internet was like, 'Yeah, this is the guy I saw on The Bachelor. He's awful. I see, this is it.' And professionally, I lost a lot of speaking engagements. I was speaking around the country about mental health, which is my passion as an activist. And then everything just went completely dark because everyone was Googling me,” Echard said.

Shortly after Owens went public, Echard learned he wasn't alone: ​​Other men have faced custody claims from Owens, including one case in Maricopa County in 2021.

According to court records, the defendant in the case claimed he believed Owens had faked her pregnancy and that the ultrasound images she shared had been doctored. The case was ultimately dismissed after the baby was never born.

“Then this issue became bigger than me. And in that moment I realized I was no longer fighting for myself. I was fighting for the men from my past who were victims and who are still in court today,” Echard said.

Echard eventually took a paternity test, but the results showed “little to no fetal DNA,” according to court documents.

At her November trial, Owens testified that she had recently seen a doctor who told her she was “100%” pregnant and “24 weeks along,” but another paternity test taken a few weeks later also “showed little to no fetal DNA.”

Owens subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, alleging she had suffered a miscarriage, while Echard's legal team chose to continue the case.

“Her story is a fabrication. It's lie after lie at this point,” Echard said.

At an evidentiary hearing earlier this month, Owens maintained the pregnancy was legitimate but admitted to falsifying medical records.

Judge issues unprecedented ruling

Last week, Judge Julie Mata issued an unprecedented 19-page ruling finding that Owens knowingly made false claims. She ordered him to pay her attorneys' fees.

“Petitioner [Owens] “Defendants admitted to falsifying hCG test results, ultrasound scans and ultrasound results,” the ruling reads. “The Court finds that the allegations are premature at best, but at worst, fraudulent and created with the intent to induce communication, a relationship, or both with Defendants.” [Echard]”

Mata wrote that Owens had a “similar, if not identical, pattern of behavior” and referred the case to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for investigation.

A spokesperson for MCAO confirmed to 12News that they have received a transcript of the incident and are considering what steps to take next. No decision has been made yet.

“This has been a tremendous ordeal for Clayton Echard and the other victims. Mr. Clayton appreciates the court's thoughtful sentence and will cooperate with the County Attorney's Office in their investigation and prosecution of Mr. Owens. Mr. Clayton is hopeful that Owens will accept counseling and intervention and that something like this will never happen again,” said Echard's attorney, Greg Woodnick.

Owens reacts to verdict

Owens responded to the ruling in a blog post titled “When common sense is overturned.” She wrote that the evidence she presented was deemed meaningless by the judge. She said she believes the only reason the judge allowed the case to continue even though she is not pregnant is because of Echard's high profile.

She and her lawyers have said they plan to appeal.

“We strongly disagree with the court's decision and intend to appeal. We are confident that this bizarre and unprecedented decision will not stand on appeal,” Owens' lawyer, David Gingras, said. “The decision is completely wrong and appears to be supported only by hearsay posted on social media by Clayton's cult-like followers who have been bullying, harassing and slandering Laura for months. Sentences based on hearsay rather than fact have no place in our justice system.”

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