Dave Roepke, Published May 10 2011
Woman attacked with machete dies; son could face murder charge
His mother died Sunday, about two weeks after she was hospitalized with head and hand injuries Howard is accused of inflicting with an 18-inch machete in what he allegedly told medics he meant as a mercy killing.
Unless an autopsy finds Barbara Howard’s death at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo on Sunday wasn’t linked to her machete wounds, the 46-year-old will probably be charged with murdering his own mother, Otter Tail County Attorney David Hauser said.
“We’d want to see that,” Hauser said of the autopsy, a report he said could be done as soon as this week.
Otter Tail County deputies allege in court records that Howard fractured his 68-year-old mother’s skull on April 23, nearly slicing off several of her fingers as she tried to fight back.
“I’m rattled right now. You just need to send somebody, please,” the son told a 911 dispatcher after his alleged attack. The account is spelled out in a transcript of the 911 call obtained by The Forum.
Howard told the ambulance crew that arrived that he was tired of his mother having diabetes and cancer and he wanted to end her pain “quick, with no suffering,” court records state.
But by the time he called authorities, Howard’s mom was still conscious, and she was not in shock, he told a dispatcher, according to the 911 transcript. He also told the dispatcher he’d stopped her bleeding.
The son tried to kill himself before paramedics arrived, according to the complaint filed April 26, and he was hospitalized for three days with a self-inflicted cut to his neck.
The mother and son lived together along Lakeway Golf Course. A message left at their house for relatives wasn’t returned Monday. Other phone numbers for family couldn’t be found.
Howard is already facing a charge of premeditated attempted murder, a first-degree count carrying a prison term between 15 and 20 years upon conviction.
Hauser said if a murder charge is filed, it likely would be first-degree.
“Well, we charged the attempted (murder) as first-degree,” he said.
A grand jury indictment is required in Minnesota to file a charge of first-degree murder, and grand juries convene in secret. A first-degree murder conviction is punishable by a lifetime term in prison.
A judge in Otter Tail County District Court has ordered mental competency examinations to determine if Howard is able to assist in his own defense and if he was mentally ill or deficient at the time of the alleged attack. The case won’t proceed until those evaluations are completed.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535