The man charged in Tuesday’s triple homicide in south Kansas City was previously accused in another double homicide in Kansas City.
But a Jackson County jury in 2009 acquitted Brandon B. Howell in the killing of Johnson County teenagers Tabitha Brewer and Nick Travis.
Howell, 34, also spent time in prison for a 1999 home invasion robbery in Gardner in which a pet cat was beheaded. He was paroled in 2011, according to Kansas Department of Corrections records.
Howell was arrested late Tuesday as a suspect in the assaults of three people outside of a Kansas City, North, motel on Tuesday afternoon.
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Police sources said Howell was the man arrested late Tuesday night as a suspect in the assaults of three people outside of a Kansas City, North, motel on Tuesday afternoon. Jail records show that Howell was booked in as part of a homicide investigation, and police sources confirmed that it was in connection with the south Kansas City homicides.
Kansas City police said they were investigating if there was a connection between those assaults and killings of three people a few hours earlier in south Kansas City.
A vehicle stolen from the scene of the killings near Woodbridge Lane and Wornall Road was found abandoned about four blocks from the motel where the assaults occurred.
Brewer, 16, and Travis, 18, were last seen by their families in April 1998.
Several days later, Brewer’s partially burned purse was found in a trash container near 55th Street and Paseo. Four months after they disappeared, Travis’ body was discovered buried in the yard of a duplex in the 5400 block of Paseo. The duplex was being renovated at the time by Howell’s father, according to later testimony at his trial.
Brewer’s body has never been found.
While Kansas City police continued to investigate that case, Howell was arrested by Johnson County authorities in connection with an October 1999 home invasion robbery
According to court testimony in that case, three men forced their way into a Gardner apartment, threatened the residents and demanded drugs and money. One of the men was armed with a handgun, another with a shotgun.
A telephone line was cut and one of the victims suffered a cut to the hand. The assailants killed the cat, a tabby named Tony.
Just before he was scheduled to go to trial, Howell pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated kidnapping, kidnapping, aggravated assault, attempted aggravated robbery and animal cruelty.
A Johnson County judge sentenced him to 12 years in prison.
In 2006, Jackson County prosecutors charged Howell with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Travis and Brewer.
A high school acquaintance of the teens, he was the last person seen with them before they were reported missing.
Several witnesses who testified at trial said Howell implicated himself in the killings. But after hearing the evidence, the Jackson County jury found Howell not guilty of the charges.
Tom Brewer, Tabitha’s father, pursued his own investigation in the decade after his daughter’s disappearance and even spoke with Howell before he was charged with Tabitha’s death and that of her boyfriend, Nicholas Travis.
Brewer said that he saw pictures of Howell on television Wednesday morning and knew it was the same man acquitted of killing his daughter.
Brewer said that jurors from his daughter’s case likely are second-guessing their verdicts.
“I feel sorry for the jurors who acquitted him the last time because that is going to be hard for them to live with,” Brewer said. “I believe justice is always served one way or another. I hate to see more lives shattered by this man. He’s a bad person and he shouldn’t be out.”
Brewer said the events Tuesday and Wednesday have reminded him of how bitter Howell’s acquittal was five years ago.
“It was hard,” Brewer said. “You want to find some kind of justice for what has been done. I believe the old saying from the Bible that you reap what you sow. This man has repeatedly sown violence.”
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