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Grand jury gets Stafford slaying

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A disagreement involving an air mattress apparently spurred the Jan. 19 shooting that left a 35-year-old man dead, according to testimony Friday.

Mark T. Howsare, 62, of Stafford County is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of his nephew-in-law, William Conner.

Conner was shot in the chest and in the stomach outside Howsare’s home on Belle Plains Road in the White Oak area.

Howsare was taken into custody that night following a standoff with police that lasted several hours. He was found in a bathroom with a .357-caliber magnum and has been in jail ever since.

Judge Bruce Strickland sent the murder charge to a grand jury following a preliminary hearing in Stafford General District Court.

Cheyenne Henry, Conner’s girlfriend, testified that she and Conner had gone to Walmart that night to return an air mattress for Howsare.

They returned to the home to get Howsare after the store would not exchange the mattress without Howsare’s identification, according to the evidence.

Henry said she was shocked when they got to the house and she heard Howsare say, “I’m going to hurt you.”

She said she saw Howsare shoot Conner, who then stumbled off the porch and into the yard, where police found him dead.

Henry said she was unaware of any bad blood between the two men and said they were close friends.

Detective Michelle Gibbons testified that Howsare told her that he was in pain that night and didn’t want to be bothered.

He said he opened the door “in a rage” after Conner kept banging on it and fired shots through a glass storm door.

Gibbons said Howsare gave varying statements regarding whether he knew Conner was in the line of fire, but said several times that he was “just trying to scare him.”

Defense attorneys Shama Farooq and Vanessa Jordan argued that the first-degree murder charge shouldn’t be certified.

Farooq said the evidence Friday indicated that Howsare fired shots in different directions to scare away a man he didn’t want in his house. She said there was no premeditation.

But prosecutors Ryan Fitzgerald and Michael Hardiman disagreed, saying the threat Henry overheard and the fact that Conner was shot at point-blank range more than showed intent.

Judge Strickland also denied a request for bond on Howsare’s behalf.

Keith Epps: 540/374-5404


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