Teen charged in father's fatal shooting

By DeeAnna Haney | Mar 25, 2014

A 17-year-old Maggie Valley teen has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the shooting death of her father.

Crystal Brooke Howell was arrested at a Motel 6 Sunday in Richmond County, Georgia, on a Haywood County warrant initially charging her with concealing the death of her father, 50-year-old Michael Joseph Howell.

Howell’s body was discovered by potential renters of his property at 497 Pless Underwood Road in the Sheepback Mountain community near Maggie Valley. Local law enforcement received information about the incident Saturday afternoon, according to a press release from the Haywood County Sheriff's Office.

According to preliminary autopsy findings Monday, Howell died from a single shotgun wound to the head. A murder warrant for Crystal Howell was issued a short time later.

“This tragic event appears to have been an isolated incident,” said Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher.  “There is no evidence to suggest any risk to other Haywood County citizens.”

Detectives are creating a timeline to determine when the shooting occurred, said Deputy Heidi Warren, public information officer for the sheriff's office.

There is no record of any domestic violence issues between the father and daughter at the sheriff's office.

Bill Nolte, associate superintendent of Haywood County Schools, confirmed that Crystal Howell was a senior at the Alternative Learning Center.

“That’s a program that provides instruction and credits for students who are behind academically,” Nolte said about the ALC. “(Howell) is enrolled there, and has been attending and is in good academic status. She goes in and does her work, and beyond that we had no indication anything was unusual. She did everything she was supposed to do.”

The investigation unfolded quickly as Haywood County officers worked together on the case with Waynesville Police Department, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, District Attorney’s office and Maggie Valley Fire Department, as well as sheriff’s offices in Richmond and Columbia counties, Georgia.

“Hard work and cooperative effort brought this matter to a rapid conclusion,” said Christopher.

Ellis Morse, a member of the Sheepback Mountain community, said the residents were taken aback that something like this could happen in their quiet neighborhood. The area is predominately made up of summertime rentals and part-time residents.

Morse has had a home in the community since 1988 and didn't know the Howells other than an occasional wave when passing each other on the road. One thing he did find a bit odd was that even though Michael Howell moved into his home full time, he still rented out his home. When someone would come to rent the home, Morse said Howell would just leave to go camping.

Crystal Howell's booking photo is from an arrest in December last year, when she was charged by the Waynesville Police Department for misdemeanor larceny and possession of stolen goods in connection with a shoplifting case, which is still pending in court.

Michael "Mike" Howell worked as a sports reporter at the Columbia County News Times in Georgia from 1997 to 2004, said Steve Crawford, a reporter with the Augusta Chronicle in Georgia. Howell moved to North Carolina with Crystal, but his ex-wife still lives in Richmond County, Georgia.

Howell's extradition hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday in Richmond County magistrate court.

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