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Howard pleads ‘not guilty’

East Brewton man faces death penalty in FL girl’s murder

The East Brewton man charged with killing a 12-year-old Pensacola, Fla., girl in May has pleaded not guilty – after confessing to causing her death.

The Florida State Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty against Robert “Skip” Letroy Howard, 38, who was arrested June 7 in connection with Naomi Jones’ death.

Howard, a convicted sex offender, is charged with first-degree murder and failure to register as a sex offender. His arraignment was scheduled for Friday morning, but his attorney entered a written plea of not guilty and a notice waiving Howard’s appearance in court.

Jones was reported missing May 31, and her remains were recovered from a Pensacola creek bed off on June 5. Howard was identified as a person of interest after giving investigators inconsistent statements about his whereabouts during the time of the child’s disappearance. Additionally, surveillance cameras recorded Howard’s vehicle in the area where Jones was found in the hours after she went missing, law enforcement said.

According to an affidavit, Howard told investigators Jones had been in his girlfriend’s Ferry Pass apartment with him the day she was reported missing. The affidavit said he became angry at Jones and committed “a violent act against her” that caused her death. A preliminary death investigation indicated Jones died of asphyxiation.

An Escambia County, Ala., court convicted Howard previously of sexually assaulting two juvenile females, ages 14 and 16, and he served 15 years in prison – a fact  that prompted the state to seek the death penalty in his current case.

During Howard’s arraignment, Judge Joel Boles set the next court date as Aug. 29.

The case is expected to take 18-24 months before going to trial.