Howard Ault was sentenced to death by the State of Florida for the sexual assault and murder of an eleven year old girl. According to court documents Howard Ault would sexually assault the eleven year old girl in front of her seven year old sister and then he would murder them both. Howard Ault would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
Howard Ault 2021 Information
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Howard Steven Ault was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of two young sisters, eleven-year-old Deanne Mu’min and seven-year-old Alicia Jones. Ault was also charged with two counts of sexual battery on a child under twelve years old, two counts of kidnaping a child under thirteen years old, and two counts of aggravated child abuse.
The evidence and testimony presented at trial established the following facts. The two victims were living with their mother Donna Jones and their two-year-old sister in a pop-up trailer attached to the family car. When the mother could afford the camping fee, the family would camp at John Easterlin County Park in Broward County. The family had been camping at the park on and off for many months. Ault met the family at Easterlin Park a few days before the girls disappeared. He offered to let the family shower at his house, and gave Jones a hand-drawn map to his house. Ault also gave the two sisters a ride in his truck the same day and their mother scolded them for getting in his truck. A few days before the two sisters disappeared, a witness saw Ault talking to the girls and buying them snacks at a convenience store which the girls passed on their way home from school.
On Monday, November 4, 1996, the two girls left school at 2:05 p.m. Witnesses saw the girls walking home, but the girls never arrived at the park. Their mother looked for them at school and eventually went to Ault’s house later in the evening. Ault stated that he had not seen the girls and asked the mother not to call the police as he had some problems with the police in the past. The mother went to her cousin’s house and called the police. The police went to Ault’s apartment and asked whether he had seen the girls. Ault stated that he had not seen the girls and allowed the officers to look around his apartment.
Ault and his wife voluntarily agreed to come to the Oakland Park Police Department to give sworn statements the next day. Detective William Rhodes, the lead officer on the case, interviewed Ault and his wife at the police department. Ault stated that he had only met the girls once a few days earlier in Easterlin Park, and that the girls had never been in his truck. Shortly after this interview, Officer Deborah Cox of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department arrested Ault on an unrelated charge of attempted sexual battery of a minor that had occurred eleven months earlier. Ault was taken to the Broward County jail. In the meantime, Rhodes located witnesses who had seen the girls in Ault’s truck, had seen Ault with the girls on several occasions, and had seen Ault and his vehicle at the convenience store at the approximate time that the girls were walking home from school on the day they disappeared, all of which contradicted Ault’s voluntary statement.
The next day, Rhodes visited Ault at the Broward County jail and explained that his investigation of the girls’ disappearance indicated that Ault had lied at the initial interview. When Ault indicated his desire to speak to Rhodes, Rhodes read Ault his Miranda 1 rights and Ault waived these rights. Ault confessed that he had killed the girls within an hour after he had taken them to his apartment. Ault agreed to show Rhodes where the bodies were. Ault led the police to his apartment, confessed that the girls were in the attic, and explained that the officers who had looked around the night before had not looked in the attic. Ault signed a consent-to-search form and the police found the girls’ bodies in the attic as Ault had stated.
Ault was taken to the Oakland Park Police Department and insisted that he would only speak to Rhodes. Ault then gave a taped confession in which he revealed the following details. Ault planned to sexually assault the girls when he met them in front of the convenience store about 2:30 p.m. on November 4, 1996. He offered the girls a ride, and lured them to his house with the promise of candy. He sexually assaulted eleven-year-old Deanne with his finger and also penetrated her with his penis. When Deanne started to scream and fight, Ault strangled her until she stopped screaming. He then strangled seven-year-old Alicia to keep her from telling anyone about the incident, but he did not sexually assault her. Ault redressed Deanne and put the bodies of both girls in his attic. Ault said that he killed the girls because he was afraid they would tell someone what he had done. Because he was already on community control for sexual assault on a child under twelve years of age, he feared that he would go to jail for at least twenty-five years. He also stated that he thought about the trauma his wife had experienced when he was previously arrested and did not want to put her through that trauma again.
The medical examiner testified that both girls died from manual strangulation, that there was bruising and hemorrhaging of Deanne’s vaginal tissue, that Deanne had been dead for approximately two days when her body was found, and that, based on the decomposition of her body, Alicia had died twelve to eighteen hours after Deanne. Based on the lesser state of decomposition of Alicia’s body and a white foamy substance coming from her mouth, the medical examiner stated that Alicia appeared to have been alive, albeit comatose, at the time she was placed in the attic.
The defense rested without presenting any evidence, except for two documents: Ault’s notice to invoke his rights to counsel and to remain silent in the unrelated attempted sexual battery case, and the court order acknowledging that invocation of rights. The jury found Ault guilty on all charges. At the request of defense counsel, the penalty phase proceeding was scheduled approximately six weeks after the guilt phase concluded.
After the presentation of penalty phase evidence and testimony by witnesses for both the State and the defense, the jury recommended death on both counts of murder by a nine-to-three vote. The trial judge followed the jury’s recommendation and imposed two death sentences. The judge found six aggravating circumstances: Ault was previously convicted of a felony and placed on community control (great weight); Ault was previously convicted of a violent felony (great weight); the murders were committed while Ault was engaged in sexual battery, aggravated child abuse, and kidnapping (great weight); the murders were committed to avoid arrest (full weight); the murders were heinous, atrocious, or cruel (great weight); the victims were less than twelve years of age (great weight). The court found no statutory mitigators and six nonstatutory mitigators: family relations and troubled childhood (little weight); prenatal care (little, if any, weight); sexual and physical abuse (some weight); organic brain damage (little weight); pedophilia and compulsive mental disorder (some weight); and remorse (some weight).2 The trial court concluded that the aggravating factors far outweighed the mitigating factors and that the circumstances of the case and Ault’s history placed the case in the category of the most aggravated and least mitigated of first-degree murders. Thus, the court sentenced Ault to death for both murders.