Deputies find Navarre man covered in blood in yard — and two bodies in house
When Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived at a reported disturbance Sunday night at a Navarre residence, they saw Courtney Howell standing in the front yard covered with blood.
Howell, 38, of Navarre, was arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree murder on suspicion of stabbing to death his 32-year-old girlfriend, Samantha Huffman, and his 58-year-old stepfather, John Hendricks.
State Attorney Bill Eddins joined Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson at a Monday morning press conference held at the SRSO headquarters.
“It was one of the most clear and highly disturbing scenes that the sheriff and I have ever seen,” said Eddins, who traveled to the crime the scene with an assistant state attorney Monday night.
“We reviewed the matter last night and this morning and agreed that it is appropriate in this case, to present his case to a grand jury and seek a first-degree premeditated murder indictment,” Eddins said. “As you know, under Florida law, only a grand jury can charge someone with first-degree murder.
“So under the circumstances of this case, we feel that it is appropriate for us to seek an indictment for first-degree murder and we plan to do that in the next few weeks.”
According to Johnson, SRSO deputies responded to a domestic disturbance at 2607 Bobwhite Circle in Navarre and arrived at 6:01 p.m. Sunday.
“The first unit there made contact with (Howell) in the front yard, and he was covered in blood,” Johnston said. “They took him into custody, detained him right then and there, and then went into the house to check to see if there was anybody else in the house.”
Inside, the deputies discovered the bodies of both Huffman and Hendricks, both with multiple stab wounds.
Howell’s three children were also inside the residence at the time. They have not been implicated in the crime.
Howell remained in the Santa Rosa County Jail as of Monday afternoon.
His arrest report hinted at a possible motive for the alleged crimes.
After being taken into custody, Howell told investigators that Hendricks and Huffman “were conspiring to get rid of him” and that “they were going to set him up for something,” the report stated.
Johnson noted that Sunday night was far from Howell's first encounter with law enforcement.
"I'll just tell you this much, we're had a lot of contact with him in the past," Johnson said. "He was not unknown to us before this, and obviously, he stepped up his game a little bit."
County records show that Howell has been arrested 10 times by the SRSO since 2010 for crimes such as larceny, resisting arrest, improper use of 911 and probation violation.
During the same time period, he was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol in 2013 and for a second time earlier this year and charged with crimes that included driving with a suspended license as a habitual offender, resisting arrest and using false identification in such a way as to adversely affect another person.
Colin Warren-Hicks can be reached at email@example.com or 850-435-8680.