KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A convicted felon with a violent past is behind bars, charged with using a shotgun to kill three people and severely beat two others in a quiet south Kansas City neighborhood this week, but prosecutors say there is still much they don't know about what led up to the attacks.
Brandon B. Howell, 34, made a brief appearance Thursday before Jackson County Associate Judge Mary Weir on a dozen charges, including three counts of first-degree murder.
He is accused of using a shotgun to kill Alice Hurst, 88; her son, Darrel Hurst, 63; and Susan Choucroun, 69; and brutally beating George and Anna Taylor shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday. Prosecutors said the Taylors were still fighting for their lives at a local hospital.
Clad in a blue jail outfit and handcuffed to another inmate, Howell stood silently Thursday as Weir recited the charges against him. He will be assigned a public defender; his next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 25.
Howell was arrested just before midnight Tuesday after someone called police to report a suspicious man walking alongside Interstate 29 on Kansas City's north side, about 30 miles from the murder scene. Prosecutors said officers found a loaded .12 gauge shotgun down his pants and two spent shells in his pocket, along with the keys to a Toyota Highlander that was stolen from the Taylors' home.
Howell also is charged with assaulting three people at a Motel 6 in Platte County, at the north edge of Kansas City and four blocks from where the SUV was found.
Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Wednesday that investigators don't know how Howell got to the south-side neighborhood with the shotgun. It's also unclear where Howell lived: A Hutchinson, Kansas, prison address was listed on his charging documents in Jackson County, while Platte County court documents list his address as the Jackson County detention center.
Howell pleaded guilty in 2000 to his role in a 1999 home invasion in the Kansas City suburb of Gardner, Kansas, and was paroled in 2011. While still in prison, he was charged in 2006 with killing two Kansas teenagers in 1998, but a jury acquitted him because of a lack of evidence.
Baker hasn't decided whether to pursue the death penalty, but said "everything is on the table."