ASHDOWN, AR (KSLA) - A Texarkana man on death row for killing an Ashdown couple 16 years ago is getting a new trial.
Timothy Howard was convicted in 1999 of shooting Brian Day to death and leaving his body inside a padlocked U-Haul truck in Ogden. His wife Shannon was later found strangled to death in their Ashdown home.
Howard lived across the street from the couple, who had an infant son and a 5-year-old daughter at the time. The 7-month-old boy was also found in the home, stuffed inside a duffel bag with an extension cord wrapped around his throat. He survived. For that, Howard was charged with attempted murder. The little girl was not at home at the time of the attack.
Among the evidence used at trial, fingerprints matching Howard's lifted from the U-Haul truck, and a pair of boots belonging to Howard with Brian Day's blood on them.
Howard, now 44, appealed his conviction, there were too many questions about the evidence and how it was handled at the time of the trial.
On Tuesday afternoon, Little River County Circuit Judge Charles Yeargan granted Howard a new trial, citing several problems with the DNA.
Among the concerns, the fact that the lid popped off one of the hair samples during testing. The incident did not come to light until after the trial. While there was enough of the sample remaining to finish testing and a total of 3 samples returned results matching Howard, Judge Yeargan concluded that he could not be sure that a jury would not have decided differently.
A conviction on a capital murder charge with the death penalty at stake requires a unanimous jury.
Leaving court Howard told KSLA News 12's Fred Gamble that "It's a blessing, a combination of a lot of good people doing a lot of hard work."
Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Chesshir was not in office when Howard went to trial in 1999. While he says he respect's the judge's ruling, his concern lies with the family of Brian and Shannon Day. "It is sad for the family. You know, after 17 years, after all the appeals, you would think they Would get some closure but we start from day one again."
Howard will be transferred from the custody of the state prison system into the custody of Little River County to await trial. A new court date has not yet been set.
Arkansas doesn't have any pending executions. The state last executed an inmate in 2005.