A 28-year-old Kitsap County jail inmate has died after suffering critical injuries a week ago during a violent confrontation with jail guards in his cell, according to the Washington State Patrol.
The death of Sean Michael Howell on Friday morning at an unnamed Bremerton-area hospital will be investigated by the Kitsap Critical Incident Response Team, a multiagency group of detectives assigned to investigate in-custody or law-enforcement-related deaths, said WSP Trooper Chelsea Hodgson.
Howell was booked into the Kitsap County Jail on May 8 after being arrested in Bremerton outside a home where officers found the mutilated body of 23-year-old Sabrina Olson-Smith of Port Orchard, described by police and in court documents as Howell’s girlfriend, according to news reports. Howell was charged May 11 with first-degree murder.
According to The Kitsap Sun, Howell has a history of allegations of threats and domestic violence. It said an unidentified woman who applied in 2013 for a no-contact order against Howell described him in court documents as “very imbalanced and mentally unstable” and said he had made threats against her.
Smith was stabbed repeatedly, her hands had been mutilated, and she suffered blunt-force trauma, according to news reports. Howell’s father had called 911 from their home in Port Orchard to report that a woman wasn’t breathing, and the reports state that Howell was found outside the home with his hands wrapped in bandages. Howell reportedly told detectives that the couple had smoked marijuana and that she had attacked him with a knife. He allegedly said he believed she was a “demon” and that he worried she might come back to life, the news reports said.
According to the State Patrol, Howell had been placed in a “crisis cell” after he was booked. The agency said that on the morning of May 9, corrections officers entered the cell to try to stop Howell from damaging a sprinkler system. A news release stated that Howell “became combative” and an altercation ensued when the guards tried to restrain him. Howell and a corrections officer were injured and transported to an unspecified hospital. The guard, not seriously hurt, was treated and released.
Howell, however, was listed in critical condition. At that point, Hodgson said, detectives from the critical incident response team were assigned to guard him.
Howell died Friday and Hodgson said the critical response team will now take over the investigation. She did not know whether the Kitsap County jail cell was equipped with a video camera, but said detectives would be gathering all evidence available as they proceed with their investigation.