Former KC Police sergeant recalls 1998 murder investigation, Howell's acquittal

In 2009, Brandon Howell walked away a free man.

He was acquitted in the murders of Tabitha Brewer and Nicholas Travis.

The families of the victims were outraged.

“Justice has not been served, and I am not happy and I don’t even know where to look for my daughter,” Brenda Lamson, Brewer’s mother, said. “Well, God will get him.”

Former Kansas City Police Sgt. John McEntee was one of the first officers who tried to solve the murders in 1998.  He said he never forgot Howell's face.

“There’s no closure. I can’t imagine what it would be for the victims. As an investigator, you hope you can give it the best shot, but so many times it just leaves something that is gnawing,” McEntee said. 

“I was on the murder squad at the time when we got a call on a Friday afternoon. There was a gentleman that was going to build a patio, and he was setting the forms and he unearthed what he thought was a sock and it turns out to be a human foot,” McEntee said.

The man had discovered Travis’ remains. Brewer’s body was never found.

Police believe the last person who saw them was Howell.

“In a homicide investigation, you start by eliminating people. Well, we could never eliminate this young man [Howell],” McEntee said.

He said the initial investigation was difficult.

“Very violent individual. A lot of the problems that we had interviewing witnesses, they were scared to death of the guy,” McEntee said. “There were incidents reported where there were aggravated assaults where he shot at people. Very violent.”

While Howell was found not guilty of the murders five years ago, he now faces the same justice system with new murder charges.

“It’s just the complexity of our justice system, but I firmly believe it’s the best justice system in the world,” McEntee said. “Is it fair? It depends on who you talk to.” 

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