Teen murder suspect's bond set at $2 million by North Carolina judge

Crystal Howell, 17, is charged in the death of her father, Mike Howell.

The 17-year-old charged in the shotgun slaying of her father, former Columbia County News-Times sports editor Mike Howell, was granted a $2 million bond in a North Carolina court Thursday.

Crystal Howell, who will turn 18 on Aug. 24, was arrested in Augusta on March 23 after fleeing the home she had shared with her father in the Sheepback community of Maggie Valley, N.C. According to police, her father’s body was discovered the day before inside a plastic storage bin in a shed behind the Howell home. Authorities suspect Mike Howell had been dead for a month.

Crystal Howell was indicted on murder charges by a grand jury on April 2 and extradicted back to North Carolina the next day.

On Thursday, the teen defendant appeared in Haywood County (N.C.) Superior Court for a bond hearing before Judge Bradley Letts, said her defense attorney Bridgitt Aguirre.

Aguirre argued Howell’s age at the time of her arrest prevents the state from seeking the death penalty, so her client should be entitled to bond, according to The Mountaineer newspaper of Waynesville, N.C.

The Mountaineer reported that Assistant District Attorney Rachael Groffsky sought a bond of at least $1 million “because of the suspect’s danger to the community, to herself and the possibility that she might abscond.”

“There have been statements by Ms. Howell where she admits to committing this particular crime,” Groffsky said, in The Mountaineer’s report.

Ultimately, Letts set her bond at $2 million, under the conditions she could not leave Haywood County and would be required to wear a satellite based monitoring ankle bracelet and be restricted to a curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., The Mountaineer reported.

Aguirre said it was very unlikely that her client would be freed under that bond, considering the amount. She said there would be another administrative court date for the case in November.

Mike Howell was a longtime resident of Augusta and covered sports for the News-Times from March 1997 to April 2004.

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