SHELLEY — For nearly half a decade nobody but a few family members knew 78-year-old Naoma Ware had died and was buried in her backyard.
But that changed Thursday when the Bingham County Sheriff’s Office arrested Ware’s grandson, 24-year-old Harley L. Howell. The arrest came after Howell told detectives he killed his grandmother in October 2014, left her in a closet and months later, buried her in her backyard, according to court documents obtained by EastIdahoNews.com.
The search for Ware began in December 2018 after her daughter, Danielle L. Howell, died in a car crash one month before. A woman emailed deputies after she tried to locate Ware and inform her of Danielle’s death. Investigators contacted the Social Security Administration and were told benefits were still being collected under Ware’s name, court documents say.
Detectives located the bank account where the Social Security benefits were deposited. Purchases on the account included grocery stores, power bills, internet bills and the post office. That investigation led them to interview the family members.
On May 1, Bingham County Sheriff detectives spoke with Harley Howell. He admitted to causing the death and gave several accounts about what happened to his grandmother, according to court documents.
“Harley said in one part of the interview, ‘I killed her,’” according to the affidavit of probable cause.
Howell told investigators that in October 2014, he pushed Ware down in her bedroom at their home at 1056 East 1100 North. He said he kicked her in the hip, causing Ware to moan in pain. Howell said he then shut the door, leaving Ware alone, according to court documents.
“Harley eventually told us Danielle (his now deceased mother) had found Mrs. Ware dead on the floor of her bedroom (in the fetal position),” according to a detectives report. “Harley said Danielle told him she did not want to get in trouble because of Mrs. Ware looking malnourished.”
Ultimately, the Howells allegedly stuffed Ware’s body in a closet, where she was left for about two months. Harley Howell told investigators when Ware’s body began to stink, he moved her to a shed in the backyard.
Howell told investigators his mother became worried the smell was becoming worse and the pair wondered what would happen when Doug Howell, Danielle’s husband and Harley’s father, would begin to use the shed. Ware’s body was reportedly placed in the crawl space for about two more weeks before being moved again, according to court documents.
“Harley said he then dragged Mrs. Ware to a duck pen behind the house where Danielle had started to dig a hole,” according to court documents. “Harley said he finished digging the hole and covered Mrs. Ware up with dirt.”
Howell showed detectives the location of Ware’s body, where human remains were located.
Howell also told detectives Douglas Howell kicked Ware in the hip, leaving her bedridden for about two months before she died. Doug Howell told investigators he got into an argument with Ware over having over 30 cats living in her bedroom, according to court documents.
Doug Howell was arrested on Thursday and charged with felony abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult. If convicted, he could spend up to 10 years in prison.
Harley Howell is charged with felony abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult along with felony failure to report a death. If convicted, he could spend up to 20 years in prison. A search of the court records shows neither men have prior felonies.
Bingham County Prosecutor Paul Rogers told EastIdahoNews.com the charges Doug and Harley face best fit the crime even though detectives had requested a manslaughter charge.
Both men posted $1,000 bond and were released Friday.
A preliminary hearings for both men is scheduled for June 27 at the Bingham County Courthouse.