ST. LOUIS – A murder suspect, who spent four years in jail awaiting trial, talks about justice system failures, which he says endanger us all.
FOX 2 spoke with Charl “Priest” Howard, who’s now wearing an ankle bracelet as he still waits for trial years after his arrest.
Howard was first locked up on a murder charge in 2018. He says it was not by his choosing. His trial was delayed so many times, a judge released him on an ankle bracelet in December.
“I was a violator the day that I got let out, because the address wasn’t any good. That night, I slept in an apartment hallway because I didn’t know anywhere else to go,” he said.
“After years (in custody), now I’m starting with less than zero because, somehow, they lost my documents. So, I didn’t have a birth certificate, driver’s license, or Social Security card, so I can’t even go get work.”
Howard says he is working now, against the odds, monitored by an ankle bracelet that court records indicate he’s violated twice since his release.
“One time I didn’t charge it on time and it started beeping, and shortly after that I got a phone call and I just – luckily I was getting ready to charge it, and it said it was on, but when I got that phone call and it was the courts, I was scared that they were going to tell me, ‘You need to come and turn yourself in,’” he said.
Howard remains free while awaiting an April trial for the stabbing death of Greg Stevens.
“A guy that I know, knew to be a good guy, was murdered. Very unfortunate. I counted him as a friend,” he said.
Stevens owned land in north St. Louis City where Howard says the victim allowed people without homes to live in tents.
“He had some people that he was worried about, and he actually hired me to do security at his place,” Howard said.
We know little about the evidence, because Howard has only had about one hearing in four years. FOX 2 was there when it was revealed that GPS data, tied to a mobile device, is key to the case. It also came out in court that someone else is also connected to that mobile device, who has not been charged.
“I’m innocent, and there’s nothing that says that I did this,” Howard said. “But it was clear to me that they didn’t have anything else, so I was just the lowest-hanging fruit, because I had been associated, I had rented from the guy.”
“I’ve been trying to go to trial since it started,” he said. “(Prosecutors) If you think I did it, let’s go ahead and go to trial.”
But if there’s no evidence, why would prosecutors hang onto the case?
“That’s a good question,” Howard said. “That’s a good question. And it’s not just a question as to my situation, it’s a question in regards to hundreds of other people’s situations that are still at the Justice Center.”
Then there are suspects like Daniel Riley, who was free on an ankle monitor and reportedly violating his house arrest. On Feb. 18, police and prosecutors claim that Riley caused the violent crash that robbed an innocent Nashville teenager of her legs.
“That hits to the heart of the problem,” Howard said, “…because you don’t have a coherent and competent system in place to administer justice.”
“When I heard about it on the news, I knew that they were going to come for me. I knew the way things run in this city, everybody is trying to cover themselves.”
FOX 2 received no response from the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office, but the Department of Public safety responded on behalf of the Justice Center, saying, “Upon his release, Mr. Howard signed two departmental documents indicating he received personal belongings and paperwork. We are looking further into this matter to ensure all procedures are followed.”