Monday, April 22, 2024

Experts testify in Howard murder trial

Staff Writer | March 12, 2024 1:09 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Daniel Howard’s DNA wasn’t found on the gun that shot his wife three years ago, a forensic scientist testified.

Monday marked the second week in the murder trial of Daniel Howard, a former Idaho State Police trooper accused of killing his wife, Kendy Howard, then placing her body in a bathtub and staging her death to look like a suicide by shooting her. He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and felony domestic battery.

Tyler Staples, a forensic scientist in the DNA section of the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory, analyzed several items recovered from the Howard family home in Athol. These include the pistol and magazine found in the bathtub with Kendy Howard.

Testing revealed Kendy Howard’s blood on the pistol’s grip, along with the blood of an unidentified man. Daniel Howard was excluded as a contributor.

The magazine recovered from the bathtub had male DNA that proved unsuitable or further analysis, Staples said. Kendy Howard’s DNA was present on bullets removed from the magazine, along with the DNA of an unidentified man who was not Daniel Howard.

Kendy Howard’s DNA was also found on another magazine taken from her purse, which police found by the sink in the bathroom where she was found dead, along with the DNA of two other contributors.

In court, Staples said it is “130 quadrillion times more likely” that the DNA came from Kendy Howard, Daniel Howard and a third unknown contributor than from Kendy Howard and two unrelated contributors.

Fingerprint testing by the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory determined there was “no signifiant fingerprint evidence at all” on Kendy Howard’s handgun, the two magazines and a number of unfired cartridges recovered from the scene.

Dr. Barclay Stewart, a surgeon at Harborview Medical Center who specializes in the care of burns, testified about the large burn observed on Kendy Howard’s arm.

Stewart said he reviewed photos of Kendy Howard’s body and determined she was scalded in the hours before her death, resulting in a second-degree burn. He noted the humidifier kettle on the wood stove in the Howard home as a possible source of the burn.

“Any water that’s hot enough to generate steam can certainly cause a scald injury,” he said.

Jurors also heard testimony from Lisa Growette Bostaph, a criminal justice professor at Boise State University who focuses primarily on domestic and sexual violence. She did not know details about the case and spoke as a “blind expert” for the purposes of educating jurors about domestic violence.

Bostaph said domestic abusers use tactics like intimidation, coercion, isolation, financial control and emotional abuse in order to maintain power and control over another person.

“The threat of physical or sexual violence is what holds it all together,” she said.

Nearly half of domestic violence survivors don’t report the abuse to police, Bostaph said. Of those who do, more than half didn’t report the first instance of abuse.

Bostaph said many domestic violence victims return to abusive relationships.

“In fact, the majority of women may attempt to leave multiple times before they’re successful at leaving the domestic violence relationship,” she said.

This can happen for different reasons, Bostaph said. For example, a victim may come from a religious community where divorce is frowned upon and feel pressured to go back to an abusive spouse.

Other victims may return to abusive relationships because they lack the financial means to rent a place of their own or buy a car to get to work. Bostaph said financial abuse, such as restricting a person’s access to money, is another way of exerting power and control.

“The purpose of economic abuse is to keep victims from being able to squirrel away money they could later use to leave the relationship,” she said.

Bostaph said one of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship is after the victim leaves. Abusive partners may go to great lengths to get the victim to return or otherwise regain control.

“When a victim attempts to separate from a relationship, the likelihood of further and more dangerous levels of violence increase significantly,” she said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or sexual abuse, call Safe Passage Violence Prevention Center’s 24-hour hotline: 208-664-9303