Wake man pleads guilty to second degree murder; sentenced to 13 years

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comJune 28, 2013 

— A Wake County man learned on Friday that he will spend the next 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to the 2012 murder of his wife at their home and then driving her body more than 150 miles before he was arrested in Virginia.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning sentenced the man, Sonny Lee Howard, to a minimum sentence of 13 years with a maximum of just over 16 years, a spokeswoman with the county district attorney’s office reported on Friday.

Howard, 43, was initially charged with the first degree murder of his wife, Sherry Lee Howard, 50.

On May 9, 2012, someone called 911 to report hearing a “commotion” and seeing Sonny Howard load a body into a dark-colored pickup truck parked in the backyard of the Howards’ home at 14925 Creedmoor Road, the Wake County Sheriff’s Office reported.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the home, they did not find a body, nor were they able to locate the Ford pickup truck that neighbors described as the primary vehicle at the home.

Later that morning, sheriff’s deputies issued a region-wide alert to locate the Ford F-250 truck, and it was stopped more than 160 miles west of Raleigh by Galax, Va., police later that afternoon, authorities reported.

Howard told the Galax officers that he had just killed his wife, sheriff’s deputies reported.

According to a search warrant made public after the slaying, the Howards’ son was at school during the incident and later told Wake sheriff’s investigator that his parents had “domestic-related issues,” and had a dispute the night before the murder.

Court records showed that investigators who searched the pickup truck found a notebook with lined paper open to a page that said, “I love you much, I’m sorry.”

Along with the notebook, investigators found a set of keys covered with blood, four bottles of prescription drugs, an empty firearm holster and eight boxes of various ammunition in the pickup truck.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said neither Howard’s defense attorney or the assistant district attorney who handled the case posed arguments about the reduced sentence of second degree murder and that the sentencing was left up to Manning.

“I understand the son testified and sought leniency for his father,” Willoughby said.

McDonald: (919) 829-4533

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