MAGGIE VALLEY, N.C. (WYFF) - A young woman admitted Monday that she killed her father when she was 17.
Crystal Brooke Howell, of Maggie Valley, North Carolina, killed her father, Michael Howell, on February 24, 2014.
Michael Howell was a former Columbia County News-Times sports editor.
After shooting her father in the head with a shotgun while he napped, she hid his body for a month inside a plastic container in the family's storage shed.
Authorities were called when house guests staying in the family's eight-bedroom cabin in the remote Sheepback Mountain community near Maggie Valley made the gruesome discovery of Howell's body on March 22. They were moving a pinball machine into the shed when they found the body.
Howell's ex-wife, Kristina Rester, said Crystal Howell called her March 19 to say her father had released her from his custody and she wanted to move back to Augusta.
Rester said she told her daughter she would have to provide proof of emancipation before she would allow it, but Crystal Howell showed up March 22 at Rester's home anyway. She was driving her father's orange Land Rover and pulling a U-Haul trailer filled with her belongings.
"Miss Howell had previously told her friends that her father had killed himself," Assistant District Attorney Jeff Jones said. "She then started to drive his car and spend his money. She had her friends move in, had a drug-fueled party and even had a stripper pole installed in the kitchen."
Crystal Howell, now 20, pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree murder and concealing a death/failing to report a death not from natural causes.
She was sentenced to 60 to 84 months in prison for the second charge, followed by a minimum of 25 additional years for the murder charge to be served before she can apply for a parole hearing.
Crystal Howell's attorney said her client had a mental-health history
"The evidence in this case is that Miss Howell, who had just been caught shoplifting at Ingles by her father that day, came home and thought about killing her dad while she showered," Jones said. "Afterwards, she executed him while he slept on the couch."
Howell hid the body, dumped the couch and sold the shotgun to cover her tracks, Jones said, effectively covering up the crime for more than a month.
"It's shocking that a young woman kills her father," District Attorney Ashley Welch said. "But the fact that Howell then began to spend her father's money, use his house and drive his car – all after hiding his body and the evidence of her crime – that's the motive. She wanted to live on her terms at the expense of Michael Howell's life. It's very sad."
Howell will be transferred to the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections to serve her sentence.