The following is a story written and reported by Eric Grossarth of East Idaho News:
BLACKFOOT — A judge ordered a Shelley man to spend four days in jail for the abuse and neglect of his elderly mother-in-law.
Douglas Howell, 49, was originally charged with felony abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult, but after striking a deal with prosecutors, that charge was amended to a misdemeanor. Howell admitted shoving 78-year-old Naoma Ware to the ground during an argument in 2014 because she had more than 30 cats living in her bedroom, according to court documents. She was bedridden for two months before her death.
As part of the sentence given on Sept. 4, Magistrate Judge James Barrett ordered Howell spend a year on supervised probation with an additional 25 days of discretionary jail time. Barrett made the case eligible for a withheld judgment, meaning if Howell is successful on probation, the charge will be removed from his record. Howell will also have to pay $387.50 in fees and fines and complete 50 hours of community service.
The story of the Norma Ware made headlines when in late 2018 Bingham County Sheriff’s Office deputies found her body buried in the backyard of a rural Shelley home. In interviews with detectives, Howell’s son, 24-year-old Harley Howell, told investigators he killed Ware by shoving and kicking her. He said he buried the body with help from his now-dead mother and Ware’s daughter, Danielle L. Howell. Ware’s body wasn’t discovered until friends tried to notify her of Danielle Howell’s death in a November car crash.
At first, Harley Howell said he and his mother stuffed Ware’s body in a closet, where she was left for about two months. When Ware’s body began to stink, he said, he moved her to a shed in the backyard. When his mother worried about the smell, and the pair wondered what would happen when Douglas Howell used the shed, they reportedly placed the body in a crawl space for two more weeks before burying the body in a duck pen.
It’s not clear if Douglas Howell knew about death, or wondered what had happened to Ware. No information was released in court documents to indicate his awareness.
For his involvement in the incident, prosecutors charged Harley Howell with felony abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult along with felony failure to report a death. He pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a jury trial on Jan. 28, 2019.