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Woman pleads guilty in stabbing death of boyfriend

By Shavonne Potts
spotts@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — A Kannapolis woman charged in 2009 with killing her teenage boyfriend after an argument will spend nearly 20 years in prison after pleading guilty in court Wednesday morning.
Emily Ann Howard, now 28, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the Sept. 24, 2009, stabbing death of 17-year-old Dustin Garren Lee.
She received a sentence of 15 years to just more than 18 and a half years in prison. She will get credit for the nearly two years she spent in the Rowan County jail awaiting trial.
Howard had been charged with first-degree murder. But she said in court statements that she stabbed Lee to protect her father, William Howard, who’d gotten into an argument with Lee that turned physical.
The incident began when, according to Emily Howard, Lee began choking her. When she woke her father sometime around 1 a.m., he asked Lee to leave.
She later told detectives Lee went “beserk.”
Instead, Emily Howard said, Lee began pushing her father around.
William Howard, prior to the incident, had had a mini stroke and also had diabetes.
Trying to defend him, Emily Howard stabbed Lee with a kitchen knife.
“I think Dustin walked into it,” Emily Howard said in her statement.
Lee was stabbed once in the chest with a 10-inch knife.
Rowan District Attorney Brandy Cook said according to the N.C. Medical Examiner’s report, Lee died of a single stab wound to the chest. The knife pierced an artery.
He was found lying on the ground outside the home they all shared. Lee had left the Lynn Street home and returned to gather his clothes.
The two had been a couple since at least 2008, Emily said in statements.
Emily Howard called authorities and told dispatchers she stabbed Lee.
Her father at first did not realize Lee had been stabbed, William Howard told detectives.
“I wasn’t trying to hurt Dustin. I just wanted him to leave,” Emily Howard said in her statement to investigators.
She told detectives her father would kick Lee out and she would let him come back.
Emily Howard also told investigators Dustin assaulted her father. Hospital records later confirmed bruises and other marks on William Howard.
Officials said at the time of the incident, there had been previous domestic related calls from the home that involved fights between Emily Howard and her father.
She had even called Gary Lee, Dustin’s father, the night before, he said in a statement that with slurred speech she told him he needed to pick up his son because Dustin was causing problems between the Howards.
Gary said his son told him Emily Howard was “into pills,” according to his statement to authorities.
Attorney’s view
“He’s (William Howard) convinced what Emily did that night saved him,” Attorney David Bingham said.
Bingham said William Howard would have been in court, but he works second shift and was having car trouble.
He said Emily Howard had problems that including being diagnosed with scoliosis at 13 and having some pain issues.
“She is a bright, intelligent young lady,” Bingham said.
Superior Court Judge Kevin Bridges also ordered Howard to pay $600 for the SBI lab tests, receive mental health treatment and alcohol/ substance abuse treatment while in prison.
She is also to not have contact with Lee’s family upon release.
The Lee family
Lee’s mother, Diane, and father, Gary, attended but did not speak.
District Attorney Brandy Cook read a statement from Gary Lee.
“Emily took from me my best friend and son,” the statement said.
Gary Lee said he saved Emily’s life on three occasions, but did not provide details.
“I never thought she would kill my boy,” the statement said.
Gary recounted how he continues to grieve. He goes to his son’s grave on a daily basis. He said he knows according to Christian teachings, he’s not supposed to have hate in his heart, but he does toward Emily.
Gary Lee and Emily’s father, William, had been friends for years.
Dustin Lee’s sister, Sandra Lee, also provided a statement, which Cook also read.
She said her younger brother had his whole life ahead of him, but it was cut short by Emily Howard. “You took that from him,” she said.
Sandra Lee said she hoped every day Howard was reminded of the life she took.
Lee’s cousin, Jennifer Newsome, read from a statement in court.
Newsome told Howard there were no words to describe the hurt and pain she’d caused their family.
She admitted Lee had some flaws, but said no one was perfect.
“All we have left are pictures and memories,” Newsome said.
She said Howard had done so much damage to the family.
“I hope you get what you deserve,” Newsome said.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.

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