North Carolina Teenager Executed Her Father While He Napped On Couch, Prosecutor Says

“It happened so fast that there was no thinking... it was basically like an impulse,” Crystal Howell says of committing the murder.

April 06, 2023
Crystal Howell, pictured here, fatally shot her father while he slept on the couch on Feb. 24, 2014.

In February 2014, Crystal Howell killed her father while he slept then fled the state after her friends found his body in a storage shed.

Photo by: Haywood County Sheriff's Office

Haywood County Sheriff's Office

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A North Carolina teenager who killed her father while he slept fled the state after her friends found his body in a storage shed.

On the podcast series “Killing Dad: A First-Degree Mistake”, Crystal Howell, now 26, recently spoke about murdering 50-year-old Michael Joseph Howell nearly a decade ago.

“I never sat there and thought about killing anyone or hurting anyone,” she claimed, Newsweek reported. “It happened so fast that there was no thinking... It was basically like an impulse.”

On Feb. 24, 2014, Michael was taking a nap at his cabin in Maggie Valley when his daughter Crystal fatally shot him in the head with a shotgun.

According to North Carolina's District Attorney's Office, then-17-year-old Crystal put her father’s body in a plastic bin and hid it in a storage shed on the family’s property, the Citizen Times reported.

She reportedly dumped the couch her father had been sleeping on and sold the murder weapon. Houseguests made the grisly discovery of Michael’s remains the following month and Crystal fled the state.

The teenager was using her father’s Land Rover when she was apprehended in Richmond County, Georgia, on March 23, 2014, around a month after the murder.

“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.”

At a court hearing in October 2016, Crystal pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, concealment of death, and failure to report a death not from natural causes.

“The evidence in this case is that Miss Howell, who had just been caught shoplifting at Ingles with her father that day, came home and thought about killing her dad while she showered,” Jones said of the then-teenager’s motive for committing the crime. “Afterwards, she executed him while he slept on the couch.”

District Attorney Ashley Welch said, “She wanted to live on her terms at the expense of Michael Howell’s life. It’s very sad.”

A judge sentenced Crystal to a minimum of 30 years behind bars.

Crystal now denies she killed her father for money or because she wanted to hang out with her friends. “It's like they wanted to believe that because it makes it easier to put a child in prison for the rest of their lives if it's for something like that,” she told the podcast about the murder case. “They don't want to believe that I tried to reach out for help and nobody was listening.”

Crystal’s attorneys reportedly claimed in court she battled mental health issues at the time of the killing. The state countered that the defendant planned out the murder and then methodically covered it up.

For more on this case, stream Deadly Sins: “Sugar and Spite” on discovery+.

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