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UPDATED: Orting man killed, deputies investigate death as a homicide

Post by Stacey Mulick / The News Tribune on March 15, 2010 at 10:52 am with 10 Comments »
March 16, 2010 5:34 am

Pierce County sheriff’s detectives are investigating the death of a 38-year-old Orting man.

Michael S. Howard was hit on the head early on March 9 in his Orting-area home. He died from his injuries Saturday at St. Joseph Medical Center, the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office reported today.

Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said deputies responded to the scene the morning Howard was injured. Detectives later followed up with search warrants.

Howard’s death is being investigated as a homicide. No arrests have been reported.

We’ll update this blog post when more details become available.

UPDATE: Pierce County sheriff’s investigators were initially called to Howard’s home in the 17700 block of 147th Avenue East about 4:30 a.m. March 9. Howard’s girlfriend called 911 after he’d been hit by an unknown attacker.

Howard was conscious when deputies arrived. They interviewed him about what happened, Troyer said.

Howard heard something suspicious outside, armed himself with a can of bear spray and went to investigate. Howard confronted someone outside and was hit in the head with an object.

Howard could not provide a description to deputies. He told investigators he was a medical marijuana patient but when they asked him about about that, he declined to answer any further questions, Troyer said.

The girlfriend reportedly told deputies there had been other attempted robberies at the home. Some were not reported previously.

Howard was taken to the hospital for treatment. His condition worsened.

Meanwhile, his step-father called deputies after finding a crowbar on Howard’s property. The crowbar was  collected as evidence Wednesday but Troyer said investigators are unsure if he was used in the attack on Howard.

Detectives served a search warrant on Howard’s property and found 150 marijuana grow plants. They also found booby traps around the home.

Howard died on Saturday from his injuries.

Investigators from the homicide team, special investigations and intelligence were working on the case.

“We are looking at other robberies there and other incidents this guy has been involved in,” Troyer said.

Howard was convicted of third-degree assault Feb. 23 after he pepper-sprayed a man who’d come to shut off his power, according to court documents. The incident occurred Nov. 17. Howard was in Pierce County Jail from Jan. 5 until Feb. 24, Troyer said.

“This is extraordinary circumstances,” Troyer said. “It’s very complicated.”

“We’ve been working on the case and it just continues to get more complicated due to nobody telling the truth, half-truths or possibly being involved or suspects,” Troyer said.

Leave a comment Comments → 10
  1. S_Emerson says:

    Steve Sarich, a prominent figure in the medical marijuana community, was, up until last night, doing what he could to get info out on this tragic event, including sending emails to both state legislators and the media.

    In the early hours of this morning, Mr. Sarich awoke to intruders in his home, and after exchanging gunfire, several arrests were made.

    Click for more info on Sarich’s assault –

    Click for more info on Mike Howard’s murder –

  2. seattle_benjammin says:

    The liars here are the police who were so inept when they responded to the murderous assault that they didn’t even look for any evidence of the assault and instead got a warrant to search the house for POT.

    Apparently the Orting Police and Pierce County Sheriffs are well familiar with Howard and have pulled him over and/or arrested him repeatedly despite the fact THEY KNOW that he carries a LEGAL medical marijuana card. So what do they do???? They purposely fail to gather evidence in what has now become a MURDER case.

    Stupid stupid vengeful inept cops…

  3. klong1003 says:

    This is a sad and horrible thing. It doesn’t matter who or what you are, no one… NO ONE deserves to die protecting their OWN property.

  4. For continuing updates on this story, see

    It’s unfortunate that Mike lay dieing while the police worked not on finding the people who brutally assaulted him, but raiding his home.

    The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office is now responding to media reporters saying that Mike wasn’t a patient, didn’t have the proper paperwork, had more than the “allowed limit” of 15 plants, etc. as they try to cover up a pretty severe error in judgment on their part — an error that seems based entirely on their pre-existing disdain for this member of their community because he was open about being a medical marijuana patient in a small Washington town. Note what non-specific details Pierce County is presenting to media about the case:

    “This is extraordinary circumstances.”

    “It’s very complicated.”

    Howard was convicted of third-degree assault for pepper-spraying a power company employee on his property.

    Howard was incarcerated in the Pierce County Jail for a month and a half.

    “We’ve been working on the case it just continues to get more complicated …”

    King 5 News has footage of the 10×10 grow room. Pierce County Sheriff’s Office is telling media that Michael had 150 plants like it’s a HUGE grow op — growing in a tiny ten-foot shed. They are saying that this case has “extraordinary circumstances” and that it is “very complicated.” There are lies and half truths and some people might be scared because they’re involved with pot, the Sheriff’s office says. “It just continues to get more complicated.”

    What is clear is that someone showed up at Mike Howard’s house at 4 a.m. last Tuesday morning, tried to break into his tiny grow room, and when he went to investigate, they beat him in the head with a crow bar. Pierce County law enforcement, who have a history of harassing the victim, did not take the assault seriously, and began and investigation into Howard’s medical marijuana grow. This led them to raid his home, taking all of his cannabis plants, as Mike Howard lied dying in a hospital bed.

    All of that is “very complicated” to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, apparently.

  5. Ryver_MystDragon says:

    Howard heard something suspicious outside, armed himself with a car of bear spray and went to investigate.
    What the heck is a “car of bear spray”?

  6. For those who object to legalization as a solution to this kind of violence, I ask you:

    How many people do you see getting beat to death or their homes shot up over their home beer-brewing operation?

    I rest my case.

  7. How many people do you see getting robbed, beat to death or shot over their legal business of selling alcohol and cigarettes at convenience stores and other venues?

    Legality does not equate with peace and happiness, as is being implied in the pro-marijuana community; anything regulated and taxed (as pot promoters say pot should be) becomes an expensive commodity that bad people will always try to take away from someone or someplace that has it.

  8. tck512 asked, “How many people do you see getting robbed, beat to death or shot over their legal business of selling alcohol and cigarettes at convenience stores and other venues?”

    There is far less violence surrounding alcohol sales now than there was during alcohol prohibition. There will almost certainly be far less violence surrounding marijuana sales after marijuana prohibition ends than there is now.

    Phil, CDC member

  9. trisha banks says:

    My name is Trisha Banks, I’m Mike Howards sister.

    Just to inform everyone, Nothing has ever really been done in his case. I talked to a detective on a 6 month basis, and she reassures me the case is still active and that she is gonna dig in deep and start covering all basis again to see about getting this case solved. Well Its been close to the six months again, and nothing nor anyone closest to him has been contacted, If you or anyone has anything you’d like to add please feel free to contact me.

    Thank You!

  10. Kathy Ireland says:

    Has there been any fingerprints taken off of the crow bar?
    Was there a cellphone,or computer that may provide any clues such as text,voice mails,and or emails?
    Were there any footprints of shoe imprints near his body? Have lie dector tests been done on those closest to him that he sold to?
    These are questions that I have and would be curious to know if it was my family member…
    I have a feeling this person knew himpersonally and based on the way he died. There was a lot of anger involved…..

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