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Man’s 57-year conviction affirmed in fatal shooting, chase

March 13, 2018

A southern Indiana man who shot and killed a woman he believed was pulling a gun on him, and who subsequently fled, crashed a vehicle and stole another before leading police on a meth-fueled chase will continue to serve a 57-year sentence for his crimes.

Michael Damien Howell shot and killed Beverly Karns after they used methamphetamine and marijuana, and while Karns was unsuccessfully trying to convince Howell to move back in with her. Howell pulled a gun from his waistband and shot Karns in the head as she pulled something from her purse that he mistook for a gun. It turned out to be an e-cigarette. Karns died from her wounds.

Howell then loaded Karns’ body in a truck and drove away, later flipping and crashing the truck. A passing driver saw Howell flee into nearby woods, then saw Karns’ body when she stopped to see if anyone else had been hurt in the crash.

Howell later found a Ford Explorer with keys in the ignition and drove away, leading police on a chase that ended with his arrest. Howell was tried in Vanderburgh County and convicted of Level 2 felony voluntary manslaughter, Level 3 felony attempted robbery while armed with a deadly weapon, and Level 6 felony counts of auto theft and criminal recklessness while armed with a deadly weapon.

The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected Howell’s argument that his voluntary manslaughter conviction was tainted by an erroneous jury instruction that resulted in fundamental error. He also lost his arguments that his sentence was improperly enhanced, that the court found improper aggravating factors, and that his sentence was inappropriate based on the nature of the offense and his character.

While the appellate panel affirmed his aggregate 57-year sentence, it also found that his conviction for criminal recklessness and attempted robbery violated constitutional protections against double jeopardy. The case, Michael Damien Howell v. State of Indiana, 82A05-1707-CR-1474, was remanded to the trial court to vacate his criminal recklessness conviction.

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