Man sentenced to life without parole in 2022 Essex shooting of ex-girlfriend: ‘Your heart seems so..
By Cassidy Jensen | The Baltimore Sun • November 13, 2023 | Original Source
A Baltimore County judge on Monday sentenced a man to life without the possibility of parole in the 2022 killing of his ex-girlfriend.
In June, a jury found Tavon Howard, 30, of Baltimore guilty of first-degree murder and firearms offenses. Prosecutors said he shot Bradyna Henson, 33, in her home on Windjammer Court in Essex. Henson and Howard had a relationship of about a decade, but she had recently ended things with Howard, her relatives said.
After hearing from Henson’s relatives, Judge Vicki Ballou-Watts said it was unsurprising to hear that Henson’s son was having difficulties after discovering his mother’s body. She said Henson had put away just-purchased groceries for an upcoming Easter gathering before Howard arrived at the house.
“As I understand it, she tried to help the defendant and they had a tumultuous relationship,” she said. “She tried to move on with her life and it appears that he didn’t accept that.”
After listing Howard’s previous criminal offenses, which included violations of probation and a revoked parole, she said he was not a good candidate for parole or probation. Although Howard did not speak on his own behalf at sentencing, he told the preparer of a presentencing investigation “I did not do anything ... I was framed.” As Henson’s loved ones spoke Monday, Howard “looked as if [he] had no idea what they were talking about,” Ballou-Watts said.
She said his statements in the report, combined with his body language and facial expressions during the victim impact statements, raised doubts about his capacity for rehabilitation.
“Your heart seems so callous. That’s what comes across,” she said, before sentencing him to life without the possibility of parole for the murder charge. She also sentenced him to 25 years for two firearms offenses to run concurrently with the life sentence.
“My daughter was a good girl. She didn’t deserve this,” Henson’s mother, Felicia Wallace, said in court Monday. She was one of several relatives and friends who directed their statements at Howard while he sat at the defense table, occasionally squeezing hand sanitizer onto his palms or writing on a legal pad.
Some of them asked Howard to explain his actions. “You took a part of us from us: Why?” Wallace said.
Relatives described Henson as generous and a beloved mother, aunt and sister who had done her best to help Howard before she decided to leave the relationship. “She did everything for you, you know she did,” said Candies Henson, the victim’s sister, to Howard.
Some, including Wallace, mentioned that Henson’s now-15-year-old son was struggling to cope with the aftermath of his mother’s death. Another relative said he was failing his classes and skipping school. “He trusted you with his mother,” Wallace said to Howard.
Deborah Powell, Wallace’s sister in-law and a mother figure to Henson, showed photos of a young Henson smiling and happy. Powell said she had moved out of Maryland after the killing and dedicated a room in her new house to Henson, filled with photos, diplomas and other reminders of the young woman. “These pictures are all I have left,” she said, wearing a yellow shirt under her coat that showed Henson with angel wings.
Powell said she “felt real eerie” the night when she last saw Henson alive. Henson asked whether she could take one of Powell’s protective Dobermans, named Primrose, home with her that night, but Powell said no because she worried that the dog would ruin Henson’s carpet. “Would you have shot my dog too?” Powell asked Howard.
Assistant Public Defender Janice Footman said Howard is “relatively young” and the father of two children. She said his early life involved “instability,” and his family, especially his mother, criticized and ostracized him. Footman said he had problems with substance abuse and had been involved with “dealing narcotics.”
“He had the potential to do other things,” she said, adding that the music he makes is a healthy outlet for his emotions.
Footman asked Ballou-Watts for a life sentence for the first-degree murder charge, with all but 50 years suspended. “Even 50 years is a very long time,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of reflecting he’s going to have to do.”
Baltimore County Assistant State’s Attorney Dylan Gerry called Henson’s death “a brutal execution,” a characterization Ballou-Watts said was fair. Henson was shot in the head, neck and chest. “He still denies any accountability for his actions,” Gerry said.
Henson’s mother, Wallace, said she was proud of the sentence. “He got what he deserved,” she said outside the courthouse. “It’s over for our family.”
Footman declined to comment on the sentence.
Before the sentencing, Ballou-Watts denied a motion from Howard’s attorneys for a new trial. Assistant Public Defender Dionte Salvi listed “leading questions” asked at trial, issues with the authentication of surveillance video and new questions regarding ballistics testimony raised by a recent Maryland Supreme Court ruling as reasons to retry the case.
Howard also faces 15 counts stemming from his arrest in 2022, including firearm possession, possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and evading police. On Monday, a judge postponed his trial in that case until April.