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Nov 24, 2014 5:39 PM

Suspect in 5 Kansas City deaths pleads not guilty

The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) A man accused of attacking and killing five people during a rampage in a quiet Kansas City neighborhood pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of first-degree murder for each victim.

Brandon Howell, 34, didn't speak during a brief hearing in Jackson County Court, but attorney Patrick Berrigan said his client was denying all 12 charges he faced.

Prosecutors have said Howell assaulted 86-year-old Anna Taylor and her 80-year-old husband in their home Sept. 2, before he stole their SUV and fatally shot neighbors who happened to be outside.

Authorities have declined to discuss a motive for the attacks, noting only that charges against Howell include burglary and car theft.

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' vehicle 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 they may have been returning from the grocery store.

Choucroun and the Hursts were found dead on the scene. The Taylors died of their injuries a week later.

Hours after the south Kansas City attacks, officers were called to a suburban motel where three people reported being attacked.

Howell was arrested walking along the freeway carrying a shotgun in his pants.

Two of the three victims from the motel identified Howell as the attacker.

Besides the murder counts, Howell is charged with four counts of armed criminal action, first-degree burglary, stealing a motor vehicle and unlawful possession of firearm.

After Monday's hearing, prosecutors took a group of Taylor's relatives and neighbors to a private room and a court employee said they declined comment.

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 also 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 home being renovated by Howell's father; the other body has never been found.

Howell is being held without bond and his next court appearance was scheduled for Dec. 11.


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