Prosecutors to seek death penalty for man in 5 deaths

Created: 08/28/2015 7:21 PM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Prosecutors said Friday that they will seek the death penalty against a man charged with using a shotgun to kill three people and fatally beating two others in a quiet south Kansas City neighborhood.

Brandon Howell, a convicted felon with a violent past, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder. A court filing that describes the justifications for seeking the death penalty describes the killings as "outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture, or depravity of mind."

"Our focus today is on the five victims who tragically lost their lives on the afternoon of Sept. 2, 2014, and their loved ones left behind," Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said in written statement announcing the decision. The statement said Baker's office wouldn't comment further.

Michael Barrett, the director of Missouri's Public Defender System, didn't immediately return an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Prosecutors have said Howell beat 86-year-old Anna Taylor and her 80-year-old husband in their home before stealing their sport utility vehicle and fatally shooting three others outside. Police arrived after Anna Taylor called 911 and found her and her husband, George, critically injured in their basement. Witnesses said they saw a man get out of the Taylors' SUV and shoot their next-door neighbor, Susan Choucroun, before driving away.

Also killed were 88-year-old Alice Hurst and her son. Darrel Hurst, 63, had been visiting his mother, and police have said the Hursts may have been returning from the grocery store.

Howell was arrested hours later when police say they found him walking with a loaded shotgun.

The Taylors died of their injuries a week later.

Kansas court records show that Howell pleaded guilty in 2000 to a 1999 home invasion in Johnson County, Kansas. He was sentenced to 12 years but was paroled in 2011.

He was acquitted in 2009 in the killings of two Kansas teenagers who were last seen in 1998. One victim's body was later found buried outside a Kansas City, Missouri, home being renovated by Howell's father; the other body has never been found.

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