Howell was convicted of the 1992 death of Florida state trooper Jimmy Fulford. Fulford was performing a routine traffic stop on Interstate 10 when he opened a package that contained a pipe bomb. The bomb was hidden in a gift-wrapped microwave oven and was intended for Yolanda McCalister and Tammie Bailey, two women in Marianna who had knowledge of a 1991 drug-related murder Howell’s brother was allegedly tied to.
Allegedly, Howell, a former electronics technician, built the bomb, put it inside a microwave and connected the bomb’s detonator to the ovens interior light so that when the door was opened, the bomb would go off. He then put the microwave back in the box, gift wrapped it, rented a car and paid Lester Watson, a neighbor who had been out of prison for six months, to drive to Marianna and deliver the oven to the two women.
However, Fulford stopped the car for speeding and asked to search the vehicle. Jonathon King of the Orlando Sentinel has a detailed report of what happened next:
Fulford had the Madison dispatcher call the rental-car agency and found out that the car was under contract to Paul Howell. He then had the dispatcher call Howell at home in Broward County to verify Watson’s story.
Howell told the dispatcher that he had lent the car to Watson but had not given Watson permission to drive north. The dispatcher told Howell that the car would be impounded. Howell did not offer any information about what was in the trunk.
Because he was in Jefferson County, Fulford called the local sheriff to pick up Watson, whom he had arrested for driving without a license….Fulford was left to wait for a tow truck.
As he stood alone on the desolate roadway, the trooper again eyed the pink-and-blue package in the trunk. He picked it up and shook it. Something inside clunked. Fulford must have been sure some sort of evidence lay inside.
Using his penknife, he carefully cut away the paper and the cardboard box. Leaving the wrapping in the trunk, he pulled out the white microwave oven and took a few steps back.
In the slanting sunlight of late afternoon, he could probably see an object inside through the tinted oven window. The trooper bent down on one knee, tilted the oven up and opened the door.
Jimmy Fulfords watch stopped at 4:34 p.m.
Howell was sentenced to death for the crime in 1995. Watson was sentenced to 40 years.
Howell is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at Florida State Prison in Starke at 6 p.m. on Feb. 26. His execution date has derailed a murder trial in Tallahassee, which will now have to wait until March. Elijah James was scheduled to stand trial next week, in the murder of his girlfriend Danielle Brown, but his attorney must now turn his attention to trying to save Howell from execution.