An Alabama man who spent 15 years in prison for sexual assault and rape has been arrested for the murder of Florida preteen Naomi Jones. Calling the man a “monster,” Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan announced the arrest of Robert Letroy Howard, who has been charged with kidnapping and murder, CBS News reported. The announcement of Howard’s arrest comes three days after fishermen discovered Naomi Jones’ body in a creek near her home. According to Morgan, Jones died of asphyxiation.
Naomi Jones was first reported missing from her Pensacola, Florida, apartment on May 31. As reported by the Inquisitr, Naomi’s mother filed a missing person report after she noticed that the 12-year-old had left the family’s apartment without her cell phone. The community rallied around Naomi’s mom, Shantara Hurry, and helped to search for the missing child. At one point, federal and state agencies offered a $20,000 reward for information regarding Jones’ whereabouts.
Unfortunately, the quest for new goods turned sour this past Monday. WKRG News reported that two men stopped at 8 Mile Creek, which is approximately four miles from Naomi’s apartment, to fish. However, they alerted authorities of a body in the creek that matched the description of the missing girl.
At a press conference confirming that Naomi Jones’ body had been recovered, Morgan revealed that investigators already had two people of interest in the case.
“We have reason to believe through all the activities that have occurred over the last five days, that we now have sufficient information to pursue some individuals who may be persons of interest. Who may be involved in not only the disappearance of Naomi but might quite possibly be involved in her homicide.”
However, he cautioned the public that those numbers could change as the investigation continued.
“I want to caution everyone, that can drop to one or that could go to three or four but right now we have defined two people we are extremely interested in.”
Morgan shared that Naomi’s social media presence was being culled to help investigators determine a possible timeline of events leading up to Jones’ death.
Morgan said that his top concerns were avoiding mistakes and getting justice for Naomi.
“We want to solve this crime and bring to justice the person who took Naomi’s life.”
The sheriff’s office talked with more than 300 people during the search for Naomi Jones, including Robert Letroy Howard.
According to WEAR-TV News, authorities learned that Howard, who lives roughly 60 miles away in East Brewton, Alabama, frequently visited the Pensacola area. Police also discovered that his girlfriend lives in the same apartment complex as Naomi’s family. Investigators conducted extensive background checks on Howard after learning that he did not have an alibi during the time of Naomi Jones’ disappearance.
Initially, Howard told the sheriff’s office that he was in Atlanta, Georgia, at the time of Naomi’s disappearance. Morgan, though, called the alibi false information.
“Without going into much details, his story, his timeframes were a little off.”
Investigators revealed that surveillance cameras had captured a vehicle, which matched Howard’s vehicle, near 8 Mile Creek around the time that police believe Naomi’s body was placed in the creek.
Investigators believe that Howard acted alone. Within hours of the arrest, federal agents descended on his Alabama home to conduct a search of his property.
Howard is currently being held on a $600,000 bond on a different charge. In addition to the kidnapping and murder of Naomi Jones, Howard is charged with failure to register as a sex offender in the state of Florida. Though Howard maintained his home in Alabama, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said that he spent enough time in the Pensacola area that he was required to register with the state.
Howard is scheduled to face a judge Friday on the kidnapping and murder charge. Prosecutors are expected to ask for remand and are considering seeking the death penalty.
[Featured Image by Escambia County Sheriff’s Office]