KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A man with a violent past has been convicted of killing five people in 2014 in a quiet cul-de-sac in south Kansas City.
Brandon Howell, 39, was found guilty Monday on five counts of first-degree murder and seven other felonies in the killings. Prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty.
The Jackson County jury deliberated less than two hours after getting the case Monday morning. The defense did not call any witnesses or present any evidence during the weeklong trial, The Kansas City Star reported .
At least today there is a solid assurance about what’s going to happen now and that is Brandon Howell wouldn’t be able to hurt anyone else again,” said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.
Patrick J. Berrigan and Molly Hastings, among several attorneys representing Howell, declined to comment after the verdicts.
Relatives and friends of the victims hugged and cried after the verdicts were announced.
“We are certainly glad to have this over,” said Ronald Sandhaus, the brother of victim Susan Choucroun. “It has been a long four and a half years, but the jury got it right and hopefully he is staring at five life sentences without parole.”
According to court records, the killings began when Howell tried to steal a classic Jaguar from the home of 80-year-old George Taylor and his wife, Anna Taylor. Police have said Howell couldn’t get the car started and instead stole the Taylors’ sports utility vehicle.
Witnesses told police they saw the driver of the Taylors’ vehicle stop in front of Choucroun’s house next door. He got out and shot her in her driveway before leaving. Arriving officers found the Taylors severely beaten in their basement. They died a week later in a hospital.
Two other potential witnesses to the theft — 88-year-old Lorene Hurst and her son, 63-year-old Darrel Hurst — also were shot to death, possibly as they were returning from the grocery store.
The SUV later was found abandoned near a Motel 6 in neighboring Platte County, where Howell is charged with assaulting three people. Howell was arrested that night walking along a freeway carrying a shotgun in his pants.
Howell had long been on the radar of law enforcement. In 1998, the body of his classmate, 18-year-old Nick Travis, was found buried in the yard of a duplex in Kansas City, Missouri, that was being renovated by Howell’s father. Howell was the last person seen with Travis and 16-year-old Tabitha Brewer before the sweethearts disappeared from Johnson County, Kansas. Brewer’s body has never been found, although her partially burned purse was discovered in a trash container.
While that case was under investigation. Howell was arrested in a 1999 home invasion robbery in Gardner, Kansas, in which a pet cat was beheaded. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Before he was freed, Jackson County, Missouri, jurors acquitted him in the deaths of Travis and Brewer.