A Florida man is accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend during an argument and leaving her to die in the woods before returning days later to burn her corpse and scatter her remains.
Police investigators in Indian Harbour Beach witnessed Daniel Stearns, 32, attempting to bury the burnt-up remains of his girlfriend, 44-year-old Nancy Howerty.
“While they were surveilling him, they were able to determine that he was burying the body and he had actually burned the body in an effort to destroy any possible evidence,” Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said during a news conference.
Howery was reported missing by her ex-husband and two children on Feb. 18, three days after she failed to pick up her children from school.
Her phone records showed that she was last seen on Feb. 15 at a gun club in Palm Bay, Police Chief David Butler said.
Howerty had reportedly been with a friend, who told investigators Howerty was supposed to meet up with her boyfriend, Stearns, the same day she went missing.
Police discovered Howerty’s car abandoned near a site known as “The Compound,” an area frequently misused for recreational activities.
Howerty’s boyfriend had made himself a suspect to police investigators early on in the case, Ivey said.
The two times he was interviewed, Stearns showed “significant areas of deception, and truly identified himself as a prime suspect in the case,” prompting authorities to place him under 24-hour surveillance.
Investigators followed him to The Compound, where they learned there were actually five different crime scenes. During their observations, investigations watched Stearn attempt to scatter Howerty’s charred remains across several locations.
Howerty’s remains had been burned and scattered in an effort to destroy evidence, officials said.
Stearns has been charged with second-degree murder with a firearm, mutilation of a dead body and tampering with evidence in connection to the death of Howerty.
He is being held without bond at the Brevard County Jail.