Annabel Grossman, Daily Mail (London), September 10, 2014
An elderly couple who were violently beaten in their home by a man on a deadly rampage across the neighborhood have died from their injuries just hours apart.
Ann Taylor, 86, and husband, George Taylor, 80, were the victims of a horrific attack that left three others dead in the Kansas City suburb.
Prosecutors allege that Brandon Howell beat the couple, then fatally shot three other people outside nearby homes before fleeing in the Taylors’ SUV.
Ann Taylor was taken off life support Monday night but lived until Tuesday, while her husband was removed from life support Tuesday morning and died soon after.
‘George and Ann died peacefully and we are blessed that they left this Earth together,’ family members said in a statement. ‘They were married more than 40 years, and loved each other dearly.’
The couple’s devastated family gathered together on Friday to ask for prayers as Ann and George fought for their lives.
‘We are heartbroken over this tragedy. The family is in complete shock,’ said a niece who asked reporters not to reveal her name as she spoke in the Taylors’ driveway.
‘We cannot understand how such a heinous crime could happen to two such wonderful and kindhearted people,’ she added, according to a report in the Kansas City Star.
‘We have cried many tears, but with each day we feel a little more strength to face an unknown future.’
Saturday afternoon, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced that Howell has been formally charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
Howell, a convicted felon, was arrested hours after the attack on the Taylors when police found him walking with a loaded shotgun in his pants.
The 34-year-old ex-convict also faces three counts of armed criminal action, two counts of first-degree assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and felon in possession of a firearm.
The other victims of the shootings were identified as Lorene Hurst, 88; her son, Darrel Hurst, 63; and Susan Choucroun, 69, all deceased.
The pain of those victim’s families was also given a moment in the statement.
‘Our family would like to send our love, our thoughts, to the relatives and friends of Ann’s and George’s neighbors who tragically lost their lives that day,’ the niece read. ‘We believe they were killed trying to support Ann and George, and we are forever grateful.’
She also expressed gratitude to the local police, ambulance crews, medics, and the doctors now caring for the Taylors.
‘We have all the faith in the world they are doing everything they can to save Ann and George.’ she said.
She also thanked the community for their support.
‘Even in these troubled times, it is so heartwarming to see the entire community come together over this senseless crime that could affect any one of us,’ she said.
Family members said the Taylors created a blended family with each having children from previous marriages: three adult children to George and two adult children to Ann. They shared several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
They had lived on Woodbridge Lane for the last five years and spent nearly their entire lives in the Kansas City area.
Fox 4 KC reported that Ann was an entrepreneur and Red Hat society member while George was a veteran, brick mason, and sports fan.
The shootings Tuesday afternoon took place in two homes in a middle-class neighborhood.
The Hurst family said in a statement that Darrel was visiting his mother.
‘While we are unsure of all the events that transpired that day, but we are comforted knowing they are together,’ the statement said.
‘Our prayers go out to the other families and victims in the neighborhood as they are struggling to deal with their grief as well. Our hearts are broken and we ask for privacy during this difficult time.’
A couple of hours after the afternoon killing spree Tuesday, police learned that three people at a Motel 6 near I-29 and Barry Road had been physically assaulted, and another was nearly carjacked.
The police statement said no weapon was used in those assaults. In the course of the investigation, police found a 2002 Toyota Highlander that had been stolen from one of the crime scenes.
Shortly before midnight, officers arrested Brandon Howell, whom they positively identified as a suspect in the motel assaults, according to a police statement.
Responding police officers also seized a gun from the suspect at the time of his arrest, Fox 4 KC reported.
According to the shooting victims’ neighbors, the deadly spree resulted from a botched robbery.
Local residents speaking to the news channel said that Susan Choucroun and the Hursts spotted a man trying to steal a vintage Jaguar from their neighbors’ house on Woodbridge Lane.
Not knowing that the would-be car thief was armed with a shotgun, the victims came up to him as he was trying to drive away and were shot at a point-blank range.
The gunman then jumped into a Toyota Highlander belonging to the couple he had beaten up and took off from the scene.
Neighbor Vicki Gruver, 74, described Lorene Hurst as a lovely lady who enjoyed travel, and Darrel Hurst as a doting son.
Susan Choucroun is survived by her husband, Charles, who owns a beauty salon in Prairie Village. The elderly man was not home at the time of the tragedy.
Speaking to Fox4 KC, the devastated man tearfully recounted how he came home Tuesday only to discover crime scene tape around his block.
One of the police officers on the scene broke the news to him that his wife was among the victims.
More details also emerged today about the violent past of the man at the center of the triple murder investigation.
Brandon Howell was accused in the late 1990s of killing two teenagers in Johnson County, but in 2009 a jury found him not guilty.
The 34-year-old also has a prior conviction in connection to a 1999 burglary where a cat named Tony was beheaded. He was released on parole in 2011.
Tom Brewer, the father of 16-year-Tabitha Brewer who was killed along with her boyfriend, Nick Travis, 18, in 1998, told the Kansas City Star Wednesday that when he saw Howell’s picture on TV, he immediately recognized him as the man who was acquitted in his daughter’s murder.
‘I feel sorry for the jurors who acquitted him the last time because that is going to be hard for them to live with,’ Brewer said. ‘I believe justice is always served one way or another.’
The triple homicide–the most deadly incident Kansas City has seen in more than two years–left people living in the middle-class neighborhood shaken.
‘In the last few years we’ve had many young families move in. It is a very, very desirable place to live,’ Jo Lombardino, a member of the Woodbridge Homes Association, told the newspaper.