Almost immediately after stepping foot into the house, an overwhelming odor hit them. And moments later, in a back bedroom and under a filing cabinet that was on its side, they found the decomposing body of Gary Windsor Howes, according to court documents released Wednesday by authorities as they announced the arrest of his son, Gary D. Howes. He was charged with neglect of a vulnerable adult resulting in death or serious physical injury and remained jailed on $10,000 bond, according to court records.
Allen Wolf, the head public defender in Montgomery County whose office represents the younger Howes, declined to comment.
Based on the condition of the older Howes’s body, police say, he had been dead for at least several months. Medical examiners are investigating an exact cause of death.
“Oh, God, it’s terrible,” said Eddie Gregg, a longtime neighbor of Howes along Bready Road, about two miles west of the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Route 108.
Gregg said that the older Howes had retired from a career training drivers for Montgomery County’s Ride-On bus service. Gregg said he’d known the older Howes for about 40 years and remembers years ago that Howes would periodically walk over with peaches and apples to share. The two would talk in Gregg’s garage, where he worked on old tractors and other vehicles. One big subject of interest for Howes: Betting on horses in Charles Town, W.Va.
“He was a horse man,” Gregg said. “He was a nice guy. He stuck to himself.”
On Sept. 6, police received a call from the sister-in-law of Gary Windsor Howes. She’d had frequent telephone contact with him until the cellular service and landlines were disconnected, according to arrest records filed in Montgomery County District Court.
The sister-in-law said she and other relatives had gone to his home along Bready Road but that the only other occupant — Gary D. Howes — either wouldn’t answer the door or give them access to the house.
The sister-in-law said the son, who lived in the home, was responsible for taking his dad, who suffered from diabetes, hypertension and heart disease and used a walker, to appointments with doctors, as well as picking up his prescriptions and buying him groceries. But no one other than the son — not professionals or family members — had seen Gary Windsor Howes since at least December, according to court records.
Police went to the Bready Road house and knocked. The younger Howes came out, shut the door behind him, and refused to let them inside to check on his father’s welfare, police said. He said his father was in West Virginia visiting a family friend and would be back in a few days, according to court records. Although the windows of the home were covered, one officer was able to peer inside and see “cleaning supplies and plastic wrapping material,” detectives said in court papers.
Investigators researched the family friend in West Virginia, and learned he’d died in 2016, according to the filings. They also learned that the younger Howes had been spending a lot of time at an antique store in Olney, selling various items for cash. He told a store employee that his father had died, detectives said in the court filings.
“Gary D. Howes also gave away numerous items, including firearms, to different people and, at times, posed as store security,” detectives wrote. “Due to his unusual behavior, associates for the store have asked Gary D. Howes not to return.”
Detectives began speaking with neighbors along Bready Road. None had seen the elder Howes over the last eight months.
Detectives got a search warrant and went into the house on Sept. 9. That same day, they said, the son told them they were wasting “valuable public resources” searching for his dad and that he’d soon be back from West Virginia.
Upon entering the home, though, detectives immediately smelled the odor of human decomposition. The door of a back bedroom, detectives said, “had a rug rolled up to block the smell from coming into the living area.” Behind that door, detectives saw a body under a filing cabinet. The face, with a gray beard, bore a resemblance to Gary Windsor Howes, police said.
Gregg, the neighbor, said it was evident in recent years that the older Howes was having trouble moving on his own. Gregg hadn’t seen him about a year.
During that time, though, Gregg said he did hear from Howes’s son, who came over one evening screaming and accusing him of trying to kill his dad with noises coming from Gregg’s garage — a recollection confirmed by police charging documents. Gregg said the younger Howes made a similar accusation to Gregg’s son.
“He accused us of trying to kill his daddy,” Gregg said.
Alice Crites contributed to this report.