LOS ANGELES » An Indiana man already facing charges in connection with having a car loaded with explosive chemicals, an illegal assault rifle and high capacity magazines — and who told authorities he was headed to the West Hollywood gay pride festival last weekend — has now been charged with molesting a girl in his home state.
James Wesley Howell, 20 was charged Wednesday in Clark County with child molestation of a girl on May 31 in Henryville, Ind. A warrant for his arrest was issued in the case, court records show. Prosecutor Jeremy Mull told the Indiana News and Tribune that the girl is 12.
If convicted of the Indiana charge, Howell could face 17 years in prison.
Investigators in Los Angeles say that Howell was aware that he was likely to be arrested. Police said Howell admitted to officers that he fled Indiana “due to his concerns over existing or pending criminal charges by the state,” according to court records.
The child molestation charges come a day after L.A. County prosecutors charged Howell with felony possession of explosives on a highway, possession of an assault weapon and possession of high-capacity magazines. The misdemeanor charge was possession of a firearm in a car.
Howell appeared at the Airport Courthouse on Tuesday and entered a plea of not guilty. He faces up to nine years and four months in prison if convicted on all charges.
Although Howell’s arrest early Sunday triggered a local panic when Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline A. Seabrooks mistakenly tweeted that Howell intended to “harm” the L.A. Pride festival in nearby West Hollywood, authorities later said they did not know his intentions.
They also ruled out the possibility that he was connected to the slaying of 49 clubgoers at a gay nightspot in Orlando, Florida, just hours earlier.
A bail deviation filing obtained by The Times shows that along with the weapons and explosive chemicals in the car, Howell had a black hood, a Taser, handcuffs, a Buck knife, a security badge and additional ammunition for the guns. There was also a 5-gallon container of gasoline.
According to court documents, Howell was in possession of a 25-pound container of “Shoc-Shot,” a commercially sold two-component explosive that detonates when hit by a high-velocity rifle round. Santa Monica police said that the container was three-fifths full and that the explosive chemicals had already been combined.
The assault rifle Howell had in his white Acura was described as an Anderson Manufacturing AM-15 .223-caliber rifle, with two 30-round magazines taped together for quick reloading. “This rifle is an AR-style assault weapon,” wrote a Santa Monica detective.
The two other rifles in Howell’s car were a loaded .30-06 caliber bolt-action rifle and a .22 caliber Ruger semiautomatic rifle.
A restraining order against Howell in Indiana prohibits him from possessing firearms, the report states.
Authorities in Kentucky have also revoked Howell’s bail in a pending felony case in which he is accused of evading police.
Robert Boyd, Howell’s attorney in the Kentucky criminal case, told The Times on Monday that his client’s father and mother are struggling to get details about their son’s latest arrest. “His family is shocked to learn about the situation,” he said.
©2016 Los Angeles Times