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Daughter held in slaying of former 'News-Times' sports editor

Posted: March 29, 2014 - 11:02pm
Mike Howell, a former Columbia County News-Times sports editor, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head at his home in Maggie Valley, N. C.   File Photo by Jim Blaylock
File Photo by Jim Blaylock
Mike Howell, a former Columbia County News-Times sports editor, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head at his home in Maggie Valley, N. C.

Funeral plans are incomplete for former Columbia County News-Times sports editor Mike Howell, who was found slain at his North Carolina home March 22.

Arrangements are being handled by his ex-wife, Kristina Rester, who said Thursday that plans included a cremation and funeral service in Augusta, but nothing could progress until after North Carolina authorities released his body.

Meanwhile, their 17-year-old daughter, Crystal Brooke Howell, remained in the Richmond County jail, awaiting extradition to North Carolina to face murder charges in her father’s slaying.

Crystal Howell was arrested at a Motel 6 in Au­gusta by Richmond County Sheriff’s Office deputies a week ago, after North Carolina issued warrants for her arrest. Rester said her daughter had returned to Augusta the day before, driving her father’s orange Land Rover and pulling a U-Haul trailer filled with her belongings.

The vehicle and trailer have been seized by police investigating the slaying.

In a news release March 24, the Haywood County (N.C.) Sheriff’s Office announced that it had charged Crystal Howell with first-degree murder. Authorities began their investigation after her father was found dead at the home they shared in the Sheepback Mountain community near Maggie Valley, N.C.

Preliminary autopsy results show he died of a single shotgun wound to the head.

Crystal Howell made a brief appearance in court Wednesday before Judge Stephen Shepard. After learning that the defendant did not have legal counsel, Shepard chose to halt the proceeding until after she had consulted an attorney. Another hearing date was not set, court officials said.

Rester said she has spoken to her daughter since the arrest, but wasn’t privy to any details of the case. She said Crystal had lived with her ex-husband since they divorced about five years ago. She still saw her periodically and spoke to her often, Rester said.

“We actually had a really good summer,” she said. “We talked about her moving back here, but before we worked out the details she decided to move back with her dad.”

Rester said her daughter had difficulties with authority and tested boundaries, which created family conflicts over the years.

“The reason she wasn’t living with us was that she couldn’t follow the rules here,” she said.

Mike Howell covered sports for the News-Times from March 1997 to April 2004 and was the recipient of several sportswriting awards.

Barry Paschal, the former News-Times publisher, remembered Howell as a “gifted, if mercurial, writer” who was devoted to covering prep sports.

“He was highly respected for fairness tempered with an understanding that the athletes he wrote about were still young and needed not only coverage but also encouragement,” Paschal said. “For that reason, we started the very popular Athlete Spotlight weekly feature to highlight some of Columbia County’s participants in a variety of sports.”

Paschal also noted that Howell faced some tough times in his personal life, including the deaths of his grandparents and his mother within a short time period, followed by the divorce.

“I had hoped he’d found a more peaceful life in North Carolina, and I’m very sad to hear that his life has instead ended so tragically,” he said.

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