Nobody would murder their wife on the family farm, stick her in a septic tank and then later give friends free access to roam the land and police to search it, according to the defense argument for Douglas J. Howery.
An Audrain County jury didn’t believe that and on Thursday, Nov. 29 found Howery, 60, of Springfield, guilty of first degree murder in the 1992 slaying of Betty Ann Howery on their Annada farm. The jury deliberated for just over five hours.
Howery now faces sentencing on Monday, Feb. 4, but Audrain County Judge Keith Sutherland is bound by law to sentence him to life without parole, according to 45th Judicial District (public) Defender Tom Crocco.
The case was shifted to Sutherland’s 12th Judicial Circuit on a change of venue from the Pike and Lincoln County 45th Judicial District. Crocco is the lead public defender for the 45th District.
The change of venue is common in high-profile murder cases to get an impartial jury.
“We’ll file a motion for a new trial and if it’s denied, we’ll appeal the verdict,” Crocco said Monday, Dec. 3.
Pike County prosecutor Mark Fisher took a methodic approach to the four-day trial to earn the conviction.
“Our theory has always been that he definitely had motive,” Fisher said while awaiting the verdict in the courthouse in Mexico.
“He was the only person who knew where the septic tank was. He was the last person to see her and had a girlfriend who was two months pregnant,” when Betty Howery disappeared Feb. 20, 1992.
On Feb. 21, 1992, Howery called his wife’s employer “and said she’d be taking a vacation,” Fisher said.
He then cleaned out their St. Charles apartment within eight days although there was still a month left on the lease.
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