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Troy student bound to grand jury on murder charges

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Jeremyah Howell, a Troy University student, has been bound to a grand jury on charges that he killed a man he found in his girlfriend’s bedroom while engaged in what his defense attorney called “mutual combat.”

Pike County District Judge William Hightower presided over Howell’s preliminary hearing Tuesday, deciding there was enough evidence to present the murder case before a grand jury and refusing to lower Howell’s $100,000 bail.

According to Terry Miles, a detective of the Troy Police Department and witness in the hearing, Rashad McClaney had taken Destiny Smith, Howell’s girlfriend, home after she had become intoxicated at a bar.

Smith and her roommates told police in a statement that McClaney slept on her bedroom floor that night because he had driven her car to her apartment in the Pointe at Troy and did not have his own vehicle with him.

In Howell’s statement to police, he said he called Smith the following morning and went to her apartment around 7:30 a.m. when she did not answer.

He found McClaney in her bedroom, and the two began arguing loudly before Howell left.

Miles explained that phone records showed McClaney tried to call and text a friend asking him to pick him up, but there was no answer.

Howell returned about an hour later with Tharion Vinciente Nye and two firearms: a Draco assault rifle and a Glock pistol. They both entered the apartment with the firearms.

Miles explained that Smith and her roommates said they never saw the firearms used threateningly, but he said the mere presence of a firearm was threatening.

“If you’ve got a Draco and walk in on me, I’m gonna feel threatened,” Miles said.

This time, the altercation became physical, Miles said.

Miles testified that Howell said in his statement to police that he choked McClaney to unconsciousness with his arm wrapped around McClaney’s neck. The medical examiner who performed the autopsy later said the wounds to the trachea matched Howell’s account.

Howell left again with Nye.

Smith and her roommates placed McClaney’s head on a pillow and left him on the floor, according to their statements.

Miles explained that the roommates told him they expected McClaney to get up, despite recognizing that he had no pulse. Miles said Smith told him she thought she saw McClaney’s chest rise.

“(McClaney) was dead when (Howell) left,” Miles said.

About 9 a.m., Smith called Howell, asking him to take McClaney to the hospital. McClaney, Nye, and another man came back to the apartment and took McClaney to the emergency room.

Miles recalled finding defensive wounds on McClaney’s hands and body at the hospital, but later admitted they could have been offensive wounds as well.

Dennis Knizley, Howell’s defense attorney, said after the hearing that Howell acted in self-defense in a “mutual combat.”

“It is very unfortunate that Mr. McClaney died,” Knizley toldThe Tropolitan. “This was a situation where these two people were engaged in a fight. Mr. McClaney came at Mr. Howell. (Howell) defended himself from a much larger man… He didn’t mean for the man to die, but he did defend himself and that was the result of the fight that they had.”

Knizley said that Howell’s return to the apartment to take McClaney to the hospital was indicative that Howell “had no intent to cause the death of this gentleman.”

Jon Folmar, Pike County assistant district attorney, declined to comment on the situation when reached.

No details regarding further court dates have been released. If the grand jury decides the case should move forward, and Howell pleads not guilty, the case will go to trial.

Nye has also been charged with murder and has posted bail. A preliminary hearing for Nye has not been scheduled.