Authorities in Florida say a guy shot his girlfriend to death after an argument and then burned her body to dispose of the evidence.
According to a news statement from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, 32-year-old Daniel Stearns has been charged with second-degree murder with a handgun, mutilation of a dead body, and tampering with evidence in the death of 44-year-old Nancy Howery, who went missing on February 18.
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey stated at a news conference on March 10 that Howery’s bones were found in a wooded location in Palm Bay known as “The Compound.” Ivey was announcing Stearns’ arrest. Investigators had been watching Stearns and made the disturbing discovery when they learned he had tried to burn and hide a body in the backyard.
Chief David Butler of the Indian Harbour Beach Police Department stated that Howery’s ex-husband reported her missing on February 18 when she failed to retrieve their children from school.
An investigation into her disappearance was initiated, and it was quickly determined that she had last been seen at a Palm Bay gun club on February 15.
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A friend reportedly informed authorities that Howery had plans to meet her boyfriend Stearns in Palm Bay later that day and that she had been seen with the two earlier in the day.
When Howery left his Honda Odyssey on the side of a Palm Bay road on February 19, Butler claims to have found it. The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the investigation that led to the arrest of Stearns; Ivey also mentioned that Howery had started dating Stearns after the two had connected on social media.
The sheriff informed reporters that Stearns was interviewed twice throughout the inquiry and that during both times, Stearns displayed “substantial areas of dishonesty,” making him a prime suspect.
The sheriff’s office has been keeping a closer eye on Stearns this week, collecting more than 50 hours’ worth of security footage.
“The surveillance brought us here to ‘The Compound,’ where there are actually five separate crime scenes,” Ivey explained.
Stearns was arrested when he was seen trying to conceal the body in a ditch. The sheriff claims that he eventually admitted to killing Howery and attempting to hide her body. Wesh reports that investigations have led them to assume that an argument between the pair was the immediate cause of Howery’s death at the hands of Stearns.
Brevard County Jail has decided to hold Stearns without the possibility of bail. It’s not immediately apparent whether he’s filed a plea or hired an attorney who can do so.
Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence. Contacting us is completely risk-free and anonymous. The helpline is open around the clock, seven days a week, and supports more than 170 languages.