Traverse City Record-Eagle

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June 22, 2014

Victim had drugs in his system

TRAVERSE CITY — Methamphetamine and other drugs coursed through Roger Rex Howard’s veins the night he died after being shot in a Long Lake Township condominium, a toxicology report shows.

Howard, 29, died March 21 from a single gunshot wound to the chest from a gun held by Nicole Mitchell, 27, who claimed Howard grabbed it during an argument in her Black Bear Drive rented condo. Mitchell picked up Howard that evening and drove him to the condo.

Grand Traverse County sheriff’s Capt. Randy Fewless said detectives are consulting experts to figure out how the drugs found in Howard’s system might have influenced his actions that night. They won’t be able to learn anything along those lines from Mitchell, since they did not obtain a blood test from her.

“In this case, there was not any indication to deputies that they’d have probable cause to get blood,” Fewless said.

Mitchell told authorities she picked up a handgun to defend herself and her children after she got into an argument with Howard over his drug use. Investigators still await a state police crime scene reconstruction that could help verify Mitchell’s story, but they did receive this week an autopsy report dated April 29.

Officials redacted portions that pertain to the gunshot in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and cited an ongoing investigation. They released toxicology test results that show Howard had varying levels of methamphetamine, morphine and other drugs in his blood.

“I think that this is something that the experts will testify to on the stand: whether it had any affect on his demeanor or the way he may have acted on the day of the incident,” Fewless said.

Howard’s mother Rhonda Hudson said that doesn’t justify his slaying.

“(Mitchell) had an option, she could have locked the door,” she said. “She had choices. She made different choices. She took it into her own hands.”

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