Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Murdered girls' mom: `I want it to be over'

Testimony is under way in a new sentencing hearing for a convicted child killer.

CANDACE WEST / MIAMI HERALD STAFF Convicted child-killer Howard Steven Ault, right, confers with his lawyer, Mitchell Polay, as testimony gets under way Monday in a new sentencing hearing.

Posted on Tue, Aug. 14, 2007

BY JENNIFER LEBOVICH jlebovich@MiamiHerald.com

When 11-year-old DeAnn Mu'min and her younger sister, Alicia Jones, 7, left for school one November morning, their mother never imagined she would never again see them alive.
Ten years later, Donna Jones has still not been able to find closure for her little girls. Their convicted killer -- Howard Steven Ault -- sentenced long ago to death, is once again in Broward County court hoping to escape execution.

''I want it to be over, everything and my children, you know, everything to be at rest, you know, at peace,'' said Jones, who on Monday faced Ault, 41, at a new sentencing hearing. ``I'm just tired with having to go through this or see him again.''

At the time of the murder, Jones was homeless, living with the girls in Easterlin Park in Oakland Park. On the witness stand, she recalled meeting Ault at the county park, and how he fixed her car and offered to let her use his shower at his house.

On Nov. 4, 1996, Ault offered her daughters a ride home from school in his truck.
But, instead of taking them home, he drove them to his house in Fort Lauderdale, where he raped DeAnn, then strangled her and her sister. He then hid their bodies in his attic.
A nervous Jones -- speaking haltingly -- recalled how she went to Ault's house that night and asked him if he'd seen her daughters.
'He said, `No,' he didn't know where they were,'' she said from the stand. ``He hadn't seen them. He asked me not to call the police because he had problems with them.''

Two days later, police found their bodies in Ault's attic.

''I miss my daughters a lot,'' Jones, who lives in Lauderdale Lakes, told reporters outside the courtroom. ''I've wondered what it would be like and well, I just thought she'd be here with me now,'' she said of her older daughter, DeAnn.

Both girls were straight-A students at Lloyd Estates Elementary School in Oakland Park. DeAnn was a safety patrol and was often seen holding hands with her younger sister. DeAnn loved to read, her teacher, Winnifred Walters testified Monday.
''She wanted to do well in school, she wanted to be somebody,'' said Walters, predicting that DeAnn would have excelled and gone on to college.

In opening arguments, prosecutor Tim Donnelly relayed details of the gruesome crime and told jurors that Ault's actions called for the death penalty.
''I ask you to sentence him to death for each of the murders,'' Donnelly said.
Ault's attorney mounted a mental health defense, telling the nine-man, six-woman jury that Ault has an abnormal brain and was molested as a child by an older brother.
Mitchell Polay asked the jury to take ''great care'' before deciding whether to sentence Ault to death.

''You'll see there's significant mental illness,'' Polay told jurors. ``There's problems with his brain. I'm going to ask you not to recommend death for someone who is sick.''
At the time of the murders, Ault was already listed on the state's registry of sexual predators for a 1994 attack on a girl.
That woman, now 20, testified that Ault gave her a ride home from Target when she was 7 years old and attacked her.
''He said if I wanted to go home to stop crying,'' she said, speaking softly from the witness stand. ``He said if I told anyone he'd kill me.''

Two other women testified Ault had sexually assaulted them when they were young girls. Ault was convicted of those crimes.
Ault was sentenced to death in 2000 for the murders, but in 2003, the Florida Supreme Court vacated his sentence because of a mistake during the original jury selection.

Outside of court, Jones said she just wants to see justice for her daughters.
''I used to think maybe he should [die] because he took their lives and he shouldn't deserve to live too,'' Jones said.
``They're not here, and I think they didn't deserve to die. I think they should be living and they're not.''


Anonymous said...

Two years before the murder of these girls. I reported to the school principle, guidance etc that this school was a pedifiles dream!! I still carry guilt of not pushing this before the two girls were murdered. I removed my child from the district and often wonder. Had I gone to school board would those girls still be alive. Not only does this man deserve to be put to death...mom needs to sue the district because her children and all the children there were unprotected by the school. Cried when the guidance counselor stated on TV interview that they had no idea this could happen here. Yes they did!!! I told them!!!

Scorpian Queen said...

You cannot possibly blame yourself. While this story is heart breaking, it's no one's fault but the culprit who stole these two innocent lives. You did what you thought was right; you opened your mouth but unfortunately, no one took heed. May I ask what made you think this school was a "pedophile's dream"?

Anonymous said...

Scoripian Queen. It was a pedophile's dream simply because of the fact that back then, anyone could walk into the school's property. No security, no fences around the school, and so forth. People trusted each other back then and the school never thought something like this would happen. Unfortunately, it did. How do I know this? Well, simply because I went to the school and simply because I personally knew the two girls(I was friends with them) and when I found out about them getting murdered, I simply ached for the family and still do for this day. However, times have changed. The school now has fences all around the school. It's pretty much gated up like a prison is(at least when I checked a year or so ago. I live far from fort lauderdale but took a trip there). Unfortunately, I wish it had happened sooner and they would have listened to the anonymous poster who told the school about the issue maybe they would have still be alive. However, anonymous poster, you can't blame yourself for the events that transpired. It wasn't your fault. Nobody ever imagined it would happen and at least you made it aware to the school.

Anonymous said...

I went to this school when it happened. It was a big deal because the way they were killed.