Crime

Kansas City jury finds man guilty on all counts in 2014 quintuple killing

Kansas City jury finds man guilty on all counts in 2014 quintuple killing

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and relatives of those who were killed by Brandon Howell share their thoughts about the guilty verdict.
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Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and relatives of those who were killed by Brandon Howell share their thoughts about the guilty verdict.

A Jackson County jury has found Brandon Howell guilty on all counts in a September 2014 quintuple killing in a south Kansas City neighborhood.

The jury returned the verdict after less than two hours of deliberation Monday morning.

The 38-year-old Howell had been accused of five counts of first-degree murder in the shotgun slayings of Susan Choucroun, 69, Lorene Hurst, 88, and her son Darrel Hurst, 63, and the beating deaths of George Taylor, 80, and Anna Taylor, 86. The killings rocked a quiet, tree-lined cul-de-sac on Woodbridge Lane.

The jury’s deliberations comes after a weeklong trial where the defense didn’t call any witnesses or present any evidence.

“It is the right verdict that I never take for granted until I hear those words spoken in a courtroom,” said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.

“This is just a good final day to come and at least today there is a solid assurance about what’s going to happen now and that is Brandon Howell wouldn’t be able to hurt anyone else again,” Baker said.

Patrick J. Berrigan and Molly Hastings, who along with several other attorneys represented Howell, declined to comment after the verdicts were announced. Howell never testified during the trial.

Relatives and friends of the victims linked hands tightly and held each other close as Circuit Court Judge Joel P. Fahnestock announced the verdicts for each of the 11 criminal counts.

Afterward, as the relatives and friends spilled out of the courtroom, they cried and hugged each other.

“We are certainly glad to have this over,” said Ronald Sandhaus, the brother of Susan Choucroun. “It has been a long four and a half years but the jury got it right and hopefully he is staring at five life sentences without parole.”

Gaylynn Meek, the niece of George and Anna Taylor, said: “I’m elated. That is the best word that I can think of elated and saddened that all of this had to happen too.”

According to court records, the killings started after Howell allegedly tried to steal a classic Jaguar at the Taylor home. A woman inside the house called 911.

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Ann and George Taylor

Witnesses told police they heard several gunshots and then saw the Taylors’ Toyota Highlander speed away. The driver pulled in front of Choucroun’s house, got out and shot her before leaving.

Responding officers found Choucroun dead from a shotgun blast in her driveway next to the Taylor home. They then found the Taylors badly beaten in the basement of their house. They later died at a hospital.

The bodies of the Hursts were found in the front yard of Lorene Hurst’s home. They had just returned from the store when they were fatally shot.

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Susan Choucroun, Darrel Hurst, Lorene Hurst

Howell was arrested later that night as he walked along Interstate 29 in Kansas City, North. He had a shotgun in his right pant leg along with spent shells in a pocket and keys to the Highlander, according to court documents.

Howell also was convicted of armed criminal action, first-degree and stealing.

In Platte County, Howell faces unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon; tampering with a motor vehicle; burglary and assault criminal charges.

Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said his office was awaiting the resolution of the charges in Jackson County before taking up the charges there.

A man accused of killing five people during a 2014 rampage in Kansas City is scheduled to go to trial Monday. Prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty.

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Glenn E. Rice covers crime, courts and breaking news for The Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 1988. Rice is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the University of Central Missouri.

Robert A. Cronkleton gets up very early in the morning to bring readers breaking news about crime, transportation and weather at the crack of dawn. He’s been at The Star since 1987 and now contributes data reporting and video editing.

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