The 17-year-old suspected in the shotgun killing of her father waived her right to formal extradition proceedings Monday in Augusta and will be returned to face charges in North Carolina.
In a brief hearing before Judge Stephen Shepard, Assistant Public Defender Muneer Awad said he had consulted with Crystal Brooke Howell and she had agreed to waive extradition. Howell, shackled and dressed in an orange- and white-striped jumpsuit, acknowledged she had agreed to return to her home state, signed a waiver and was led out of the courtroom.
North Carolina officials said they were still working out the details on Monday of when she would return.
According to search warrant affidavits obtained by the Columbia County News-Times, Howell told investigators she killed her father, Michael Howell at their North Carolina home sometime last month.
Crystal Howell made the admission on March 23 at the Richmond County jail to two investigators from North Carolina – a detective with the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office and an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation, according to the warrant issued Tuesday.
“During the course of the interview, Crystal Howell stated that approximately one month ago, she shot her father, Michael Howell, in the head with a shotgun. She stated that sometime afterward she threw the fired shotgun shell in the garbage,” sheriff’s Detective Scott Robinson said in the warrant affidavit.
North Carolina authorities had been seeking her since March 22, when friends staying at her home in Maggie Valley, N.C., discovered her father’s body in a plastic tote bin inside a storage shed on the property. She was arrested the next day in Augusta at a Motel 6 on Boy Scout Road.
According to the arrest warrant, Michael Howell, a former News-Times sports editor, had been dead since Feb. 23.
Crystal Howell’s aunt, Brenda Ennis, who lives in Evans, said her niece had a difficult childhood and a history of emotional problems, which she thought contributed to the tragedy.
“I can tell you there is a lot more wrong with Crystal than has come out,” Ennis said. “There have been so many issues but they have compounded by all that she has been through over the years.”
Ennis said she only knew her niece as a “loving, sweet child” who craved loved and affection.
“She’s not a heinous monster,” Ennis said. “It is a heart breaking tragedy, that’s all I know. People need to understand mental illness is serious and it can be pushed to the limit and I think this is what has happened.”
Authorities said Crystal Howell left North Carolina late March 21 for Augusta. Meanwhile, her friends – identified as Summer Ramsey and Elijah Damon – stayed behind at her father’s eight-bedroom cabin in the remote Sheepback Mountain community near Maggie Valley.
According to the affidavit, Crystal Howell told her friends that her father had left home in January and committed suicide in Georgia.
About 2:30 p.m. March 22, Damon and another man, Anthony Talley, were moving a pinball machine and some plastic totes into the storage shed. Talley noticed a sleeping bag covering a tote and removed it, revealing Michael Howell’s body inside, the affidavit said.
When reached by phone Friday, Talley said he knew Crystal only as an acquaintance, having worked on her father’s Land Rover a few times. He confirmed that he and Damon found the body while moving items into the storage building. He said he was still shaken from what he saw in the shed, but police had asked him not to discuss details of the case.
“I never want to see anything like that ever again in my life,” Talley said. “It has ruined me.”