Michael Arthur Howell, the Charlotte insurance agent charged with killing a state insurance examiner in May, will not be tried for his life.
Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Beth Greene on Thursday announced in court that prosecutors would not seek the death penalty against Howell.
Howell, his hands shackled, turned toward his parents and wife and nodded as he was escorted from the courtroom. His relatives declined to comment as they left the courthouse.
Greene, asked following the hearing why prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty, declined to comment. She said prosecutors are prohibited from commenting about pending cases.
Howell, 41, is charged with first-degree murder, accused of killing Sallie Rohrbach. The insurance examiner, 44, came to Charlotte on May 12 to audit his business, Dilworth Insurance Agency. She disappeared two days later. Rohrbach's state-owned car, a Chevrolet Malibu, was found in the parking lot of a Bojangles' restaurant on West Boulevard – less than a half mile from Howell's insurance agency on South Boulevard. Her body was discovered in a rural area near Fort Mill in York County, S.C.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Howell would be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Defense attorney Mark Foster said he's not surprised by the prosecutors' decision not to seek the death penalty.
“The death penalty is for the worst of the worst,” he said. “I don't think this case falls into that category.”
Rohrbach had informed her supervisor in April that GMAC Insurance Company had pulled its agreement with Howell's agency because of rejected electronic fund transfers, according to a search warrant application. GMAC also had expressed concern to Rohrbach that customers' payments were not being sent promptly by Howell and that money sent was possibly different than the amount paid, the court document says.
Rohrbach was sent to the Dilworth Insurance Agency to examine the agency's records.
Insurance investigator Chet Effler wrote in the search warrant application that Rohrbach had been reviewing bank records in the agency that showed unremitted premiums to an insurance company.
The search warrant application included copies of e-mails from Rohrbach about her findings at Howell's insurance agency.
“He gave me 16 months of bank statements today … and there were issues in each month,” Rohrbach wrote in one e-mail. “No negative balances but he is floating money.”