Notorious Butler County homicide spotlighted on national true crime show

Published: Monday, June 24, 2019 @ 11:55 AM

Daniel French was sentenced by Butler County Common Pleas Judge Charles Pater Monday, Nov. 16 to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 11 years for lesser charges for the killing of Barbara Howe of Monroe. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Daniel French was sentenced by Butler County Common Pleas Judge Charles Pater Monday, Nov. 16 to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 11 years for lesser charges for the killing of Barbara Howe of Monroe. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The brutal murder of 87-year-old Barbara Howe in her Monroe retirement community home in the fall of 2012 was featured Sunday night on Investigation Discovery.

The hourlong program featured interviews with Monroe detective Gregg Myers, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation Agent Bryan White, Howe’s sister, Patty Marshall, and Howe’s daughter, Donna Wesselman.

MORE: Jury finds Daniel French guilty of Barbara Howe’s murder

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Daniel French, a former maintenance worker at Mount Pleasant Retirement Community, was found guilty of Howe’s murder in October 2015 after a seven-day trial in Butler County Common Pleas Court. He was eligible for the death penalty but was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by Judge Charles Pater, who followed the jury’s recommendation.

The show, which is the second national show to feature the Howe case, gives details about how the investigation unfolded, most of which came out in trial.

French was 57 and living with his sister outside of Berea, Ky., when he confessed to killing Howe months after her death and after a grand jury had returned an indictment for aggravated murder and robbery.

More: Daniel French ‘I seen Ms. Howe’s ghost, and I apologized

French’s defense attorneys maintained Howe’s death was an accident, as French told police in his confession. But prosecutors said he hatched a plan to rob Howe and others at the retirement community and never intended to leave a witness alive.

In his confession, French told police he wanted to die and that he deserved death for what he did. 

During closing arguments, defense attorney Melynda Cook Howard said prosecutors failed to prove that French killed Howe purposely and with prior calculation, which are needed to fit the aggravated murder charge. The defense has maintained that French went to Howe’s cottage to steal from her, not to kill her.

She said French came to Ohio in October 2012 to visit his sister and son and murder was not on his mind.

“Danny told the truth,” Cook said. “He didn’t drive from Kentucky on the 20th of October with the purpose to commit murder.”

MORE: Jurors hear Daniel French confess to Barbara Howe’s confession 

Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said in his closing statement that after scamming his way into Howe’s home by telling her he needed to repair her medical alarm system, he had to revert to a plan B when Howe would not go down after being shocked with a stun gun.

“He took that stun gun and he hit her with it, but she didn’t go down. She didn’t go quietly into the night. He had to kill her,” Gmoser said, adding that Howe was still alive when he placed her in the crawl space of her home and came back later to slit her throat.

“Isn’t that prior calculation and design,” Assistant Prosecutor Brad Burress told the jury during closing arguments. “You cannot slit someone’s throat four times and say you thought she was dead.”