Man with Port Townsend ties linked to grisly slaying

  • Friday, August 13, 2010 9:00am
  • News

Peninsula Daily News news sources

OLYMPIA — A 26-year-old man with Port Townsend links was pulled over Sunday night with a dead woman in his pickup.

Bernard Keith Howell III told police he had found her dead, bloody and in “pretty bad shape” on the Yelm-Tenino Trail near Olympia hours earlier.

The body of Vanda Boone was wrapped in plastic and a sleeping bag in the back passenger seat.

She died after her throat was slashed, Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock said.

Blunt force injuries to her head and neck, and asphyxia due to strangulation or suffocation also contributed to her death, Warnock said.

Howell, who lives in Tenino, about 12 miles south of Olympia, told police that he “just wanted to save the family of this woman the $5,000 it would cost to bury her,” according to court documents.

In the truck was plastic bags, zip ties, bungee-type elastic cords and a 10-pound weight.

His plan was to dump her body in a nearby swamp, according to the court documents.

Howell denied that he had anything to do with her death, but later, after his arrest, he said that he had sex with her dead body, according to court papers.

On Thursday, a judge said Howell, charged with first-degree murder, would be sent to Western State Hospital for a mental evaluation to help determine whether he is competent to stand trial.

Howell has a history of mental issues, according to his father.

During an interview at the jail, Howell repeatedly told court officials “he heard voices and that he wanted to be alone,” according to court papers.

Howell has no criminal record. He told Superior Court Judge Christine Pomeroy on Monday that he was self-employed and delivered “gourmet meat.”

There was a refrigerator unit in the bed of Howell’s pickup when he was arrested Sunday night, but it was empty, according to Thurston County sheriff’s detective Steve Hamilton.

Thurston County Sheriff’s Lt. Chris Mealy has said that detectives think that Boone was walking or riding her bike Sunday afternoon on the Yelm-Tenino Trail when she was attacked and murdered.

Investigators said they found her wallet and keys under the front seat of Howell’s pickup.

Boone, 60, worked as a part-time massage therapist at Radiance Herbs and Massage in Olympia.

Karin Olsen, owner of Radiance, said Boone “became known for her remarkable healing skills and caring, compassionate nature.

“Even when faced with challenges, she consistently looked for the gift and walked her path with elegance and grace.

“Vanda’s light shone brightly — she was loved and will be missed.”

Boone had no known living relatives.

She had moved to the Yelm area from Long Island City, N.Y., in March and was said to have been a follower of JZ Knight, the founder of the Yelm-based Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment.

On Tuesday, Knight released a written statement that said Boone had studied at the school — and that the school will arrange and pay for Boone’s funeral.

Detectives are also investigating whether Howell might be connected to the disappearance of Nancy Moyer, a 36-year-old mother of two who went missing from her Tenino home last year and has never been found

Her home is about a mile away from Howell’s home.

Moyer vanished from her home March 6, 2009, leaving her car, purse, wallet, credit cards and identification behind.

Moyer’s husband found the front door was ajar, the television on and a glass of red wine on the coffee table in the living room.

Detectives have also contacted other police agencies in Western Washington to see if Howell might be linked to any other unsolved crimes.

A sheriff’s office spokesperson said there was no evidence connecting Howell to other crimes at this point.

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