HAMPSTEAD — Nearly a month after her daughter’s body was discovered in an abandoned trailer in north Hampstead, Monica Faith is still waiting for answers, like whether her death will be ruled a murder, accident, or suicide.
“I have a whole list of questions and they won’t really give details until everything’s closed,” Monica said. “I know things take time, but it just seems like more and more time is going on. I know the world’s going crazy right now [with the Covid-19 pandemic], but I just want to know what I can do.”
Why, she asked Thursday, did Hannah’s boyfriend text her grandmother on March 21 — four days after her family had last heard from her — saying he was with Hannah and that she was alright? Was Micah Howard really with her at the time? Was she alright? When did she die?
Her phone had been turned off since Wednesday of March 18, according to Monica, with all calls going directly to voicemail, and a deputy said the last text from Hannah was sent to her grandmother the same day. Monica also said her daughter had been fighting with Howard and was planning to end the relationship.
“After Wednesday, she stopped making contact,” Monica said.
The day following his March 21 text message to Hannah’s grandmother, Howard was pulled over by Surf City Police driving Hannah’s 2005 Buick, according to Pender County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) spokesman Captain James Rowell.
“They didn’t disclose to my mom why he got pulled over, but just that he got pulled over,” Monica said.
When asked why his officers pulled Howard over while driving Hannah’s Buick that Sunday, Surf City Police Chief Ron Shanahan declined to answer because it involved an ongoing investigation in collaboration with the Pender County Sheriff’s Office.
The following Wednesday, Hannah’s grandmother filed a missing person report. On Thursday evening, March 26, her body was found at the trailer in Hampstead. Its address — 498 Williams Store Road — was one associated with Howard, according to Rowell, and one deputies believed that Hannah had recently been residing at.
At the time, Sheriff Alan Cutler indicated there was an active, ongoing investigation into her death and no additional information would be released.
Boyfriend arrested for armed burglary
Shortly after midnight last Sunday, Howard was arrested for an armed robbery near the UNCW campus in Wilmington, caught trying to flee when officers with the WPD and NC Highway Patrol pulled over the vehicle he was traveling in.
He was charged with nine crimes — including robbery with a dangerous weapon, larceny of a firearm, probation violation, possession of marijuana and Schedule IV narcotics, and possession of a firearm by a felon — and held under $215,000 in secured bonds (the charges include a 2018 felony breaking and entering a motor vehicle from Pender County). Mykier Brown-Thomas, who also tried to escape, faced three charges and was held under $160,000 in secured bonds.
This brought further questions: Why did Howard receive more charges than Brown-Thomas received? Was he more actively involved in the armed robbery, did he use a stolen gun while Brown-Thomas did not, or were detectives seeking information from Brown-Thomas regarding Howard and the death of Hannah Faith?
According to Wilmington Police Department spokesperson Jessica Williams, the arresting officer could not comment on how and why Howard was charged. Brown-Thomas faced only three charges, stemming from robbery with a dangerous weapon and a probation violation.
Howard is currently in the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office detention center. Due to Covid-19 restrictions on court proceedings, a court date for his recent arrest has not been scheduled. However, he is currently scheduled to appear in Pender County court on several 2018 charges (including the breaking and entering a vehicle charge) as well as a probation violation for a 2019 felony larceny conviction.
‘I just want this to end’
Although Monica said she wasn’t informed of any other details of the condition of her daughter’s body, she said detectives told her the cause of death was from a gunshot wound.
“They did let me know that the gun was not stolen,” Monica said. “However, the person it belonged to was an elderly man who had passed away. He is also missing other guns as well.”
Howard was charged with larceny of a firearm after Sunday’s armed robbery, although there is no information connecting the weapon Howard used to the gun involved in Hannah’s death.
Additionally, she asked if PCSO detectives could look through Howard’s phone, now that he was in custody, and use any sort of technology to determine whether he erased certain information.
“[If he did] he had a whole week to cover up stuff,” Monica said.
Captain Billy Sanders, head of PCSO’s criminal investigation division, promised that his detectives were using everything at their disposal to find answers.
“We’re using everything available on the case to get to the end where we can close it,” Sanders said.
Other questions remain unanswered: Has the PCSO at any point considered Howard a suspect in Hannah’s death? And, most important to Monica, how and when did her daughter die?
The Pender County Sheriff’s Office is waiting for a report from the medical examiner’s office before releasing a probable cause of death, according to Rowell, which would likely include her day and time of death.
“I just want this to end,” Monica said. “I can’t say for sure that he did what I think he did, but I don’t understand why he would prolong my mom finding out. Why did he message my mom [and tell her Hannah was with him and was alright]? And [PCSO detectives] told me what he did was wrong; however, it’s not against the law. He didn’t do anything criminal, what they found out so far.”
Hannah Mills, who said she met Hannah Faith at a cheerleading competition several years ago, said her friend would text her when she was going through difficult times, like substance abuse.
“Over Facetime, she told me how her boyfriend [Micah Howard] was treating her horribly … I know that one of the reasons why she stayed with him was for drug money,” Mills said.
A series of November text messages provided by Mills revealed that Hannah appeared to be struggling with depression, not having enough money for food or rent, and was attending Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings.
She said Hannah told her of a time Howard “[threw] all of her stuff out the window.”
“One of the reasons why they dated in the first place was so she could make money off of drugs, I believe,” Mills said.
Editor’s Note: Monica Faith asked readers to provide any information about Hannah’s whereabouts on March 18, the last day she communicated with her family.