An elderly couple beaten last week in a Kansas City, Mo., rampage died on Tuesday, pushing the total death toll to five — and bringing a possible death penalty for the suspect.
George Taylor, 80, and his wife, Ann, 86, had been in the hospital since Sept. 2, when they were found unconscious and badly beaten inside their home, the Kansas City Star reported. The beating is connected with the shooting deaths of 69-year-old Susan Choucroun, 88-year-old Lorene Hurst and Hurst’s 63-year-old son, Darrel Hurst.
“George and Ann died peacefully and we are blessed that they left this earth together,” the Taylor family said in a statement. “They were married more than 40 years, and loved each other dearly.”
Brandon Howell, 34, could now face five homicide charges, and the local county prosecutor is “likely weighing” asking for the death penalty in the case, Kansas City’s CBS affiliate reported.
“Be assured that at the appropriate time, today’s sad news of the Taylors’ passing will be reflected in the state’s case against the defendant,” the office of Jackson County, Mo., Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said in a statement. Baker had previously said that “all punishments are on the table.”
Police allege that Howell severely beat the Taylors, leaving them for dead in their basement. Following the beating one week ago, Ann Taylor managed to call 911, saying “help” and “shotgun,” according to prosecutors.
Police accused Howell of shooting the couple’s neighbors, who caught him allegedly attempting to steal the couple’s Jaguar, the CBS affiliate KCTV reported. He instead took the couple’s beige Toyota Highlander, police allege.
When officers came to the Taylors’ home, they found the couple’s neighbor, Choucroun, lying dead in her driveway, according to the probable cause statement. Police then went house to house and found Hurst and her son, who had been shot dead in their front yard.
Witnesses told police they heard “several” gunshots and saw a beige Toyota Highlander — just like the Taylors’ — leaving the neighborhood, according to the probable cause statement. One witness told police that the car stopped in front of Choucroun’s house and that the driver got out and shot her once with a long gun.
A witness to Choucroun’s shooting died three days later.
James “Jim” Anderson, 79, died after falling down stairs in his home, his wife Cheryl told the Fox 4, which reports the official cause of his death is unknown. Cheryl Anderson added her husband had been “extremely stressed” since the shootings.
Anderson saw the shooting from a window in his home, he told Fox 4 on Sept. 3. “I was thinking I better not go out ‘cause I’ll get shot myself. I was kind of scared,” Anderson said last week.
The rampage didn’t end on that residential street. Hours later, police were called to a Motel 6 where three people had been allegedly assaulted by Howell, according to the statement. The victims said a man had followed them into their room after asking for a cigarette, then assaulted them, according to police. He punched one and chased another out of the motel and into the parking lot; police found the Highlander nearby.
Police said they found Howell himself hours later, walking on the shoulder of the highway while holding a 12-gauge shotgun inside of his pants, according to the probable cause statement.
A judge refused bond for Howell, who is being held in the Jackson County Jail, KCTV reported.
Howell has run afoul of the law before. In 2000, he pleaded guilty in a home invasion robbery case and was sentenced to 12 years in prison, the Kansas City Star reported. He was let out on parole in 2011.
In 2006, prosecutors also hit him with murder charges in the death of two teenagers that took place a year before the home-invasion robbery. Tabitha Brewer and Nick Travis, Howell’s high school classmates, had been missing since April 1998, the Star reported. Travis’s body was found four months later, but Brewer’s has never been discovered. A jury acquitted Howell of murder charges in 2009.
Howell’s relatives told the Star that they were shocked at the new charges, saying that Howell had been trying to turn his life around and had held a steady job until last month.
“What happened there, he doesn’t seem to be the person that would have done it,” Howell’s father told the Star. “But I don’t know.”