Beaten woman manages to alert police to killing spree


Ann and George Taylor had been left for dead in their basement but Ann Taylor managed to get to a telephone and call 911.

"Help," she told the dispatcher while managing to give her address. "Shotgun."

And then the line went dead just before 1 p.m. Tuesday.

As dispatchers relayed this horrifying news to Kansas City police officers and ambulance crews, Brandon Howell allegedly left the Taylor home that he burglarized.

Witnesses and authorities said Howell was trying to start the couple's beloved Jaguar but was having trouble.

Suspicious neighbors sought to alert authorities. When Howell couldn't start the Jag, he allegedly managed to get the keys to the Taylors' Toyota Highlander.

As he was leaving the neighborhood, the suspect stopped and got out of the SUV. Armed with a shotgun, he confronted Susan Choucroun, 69, who had left her home. Howell allegedly pulled out his shotgun and shot Choucroun once. She collapsed and would die in her own driveway.

Officers arriving at the typically quiet cul-de-sac found the garage doors open to the Taylors' and Choucroun's homes. After finding the Taylors desperately clinging to life and Choucroun dead, officers began a door-to-door search for other victims and suspects.

At the home of 88-year-old Lorene Hurst, they found her shot dead along with her 63-year-old son, Darrel, who was visiting her as he did regularly. They were found in the front yard.

One witness described seeing the suspect leaving in the Taylors' SUV. The suspect was wearing a hoodie-style jacket with the hood pulled over his head.

A shotgun shell was found at one of the crime scenes.

Howell is being held in the Jackson County jail on 12 felony charges, including three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree assault. Prosecutors will weigh whether to see the first death penalty case in Jackson County since 2006.

Thursday he went in front of a judge who read the 12 felony charges against him.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James said the events of Tuesday have changed the neighborhood.

"The events are going to leave a scar on a peaceful neighborhood, probably forever," James said.

The Woodbridge Homeowners Association started plans for a vigil and memorial for the victims. Friday a banner with a broken heart will be put up to honor the victims.

Rebecca Fleming is on the board of the Homeowners Association. She has a unique perspective as a retired homicide detective with Kansas City Police Department.

"This was just an extremely rare circumstance that ended badly for some very good people," she said.

Fleming and other board members said they are already looking for ways to ensure neighbors always feel safe, but it will take time.

"(It will) still be a great community, but none of us will ever forget this. These were our friends and neighbors. Our hearts will always be with them and their families," she said.

The events have also brought shaken neighbors closer together as they check on each other.

Jim Anderson said he saw Choucroun shot and called 911.

"I'm sure he was going to shoot anybody that saw him," Anderson said.

Vicky Gruver came home to find her door kicked in by police. She said the violence is unexplainable.

"This was so randomly stupid to just shoot people," she said. "(It's) senseless that someone is that evil."

She mourned the loss and injuries to lovely people who went about their normal lives being kind and good to all.

Mary Smith is moving on Saturday, but not because of the terrible crimes that happened on Tuesday.

"I'm still not scared. I just don't believe it, how anyone could do that is beyond any of us," Smith said.

While mad that one man could cause such a change in one neighborhood's atmosphere, she hopes things don't change too much because of him.

"You think in your older years you can just retire and take it easy, but you never know," Smith said.

Some residents have discussed gating the community and holding meetings with police.

KCTV5's Chris Oberholtz, Erika Tallan, Laura McCallister and Jamie Oberg contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.


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