Lucedale woman lucky to be alive after harrowing kidnapping, assault

Lucedale woman lucky to be alive after harrowing kidnapping, assault
Stephen Eugene Howell. (Photo source: Moss Point Police Department)
Stephen Eugene Howell. (Photo source: Moss Point Police Department)

LUCEDALE, MS (WLOX) - A harrowing ordeal is not over for a Lucedale woman.

The man accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting her Saturday night is still on the loose.

Four years ago, Stephen Eugene Howell was arrested and charged by Moss Point Police with the same type of crime.

And authorities are after him again.

Lucedale police officials say the victim is lucky to be alive in one of the most shocking crimes to happen in this small town.

"It's a horrible crime," said Lucedale Police Detective Stuart Fairchild. "We're fortunate at this time that there was negligible to minimal physical injury. It was mostly emotional trauma that was suffered at this time. I think the victim was extremely fortunate to get away when she did."

The attack began at the Jr. Food Mart on Winter Street where they both worked. An employee at the store on Sunday would not go on camera, but said simply, "It's a very sad situation."

According to Lucedale Police, Howell, the store manager, asked the 28-year-old victim to go around to the back of the store with him soon after she arrived for work.

There, he allegedly struck her with a weapon, tied her up and forced her into his car.

The report says he then drove them to this hotel, just blocks away from the store, where he sexually assaulted her that day.

The victim escaped when Howell fell asleep.

Fairchild says this type of crime is rare.

"I don't remember a case like this happening that had the same type of MO and the same type of issues that this one does in recent history."

But once is enough to frighten some long-time Lucedale residents.

"Of course something like happening in a small town makes you a little worried, especially if you have kids," said Ashton Brown. "But, I mean, it just don't happen all the time."

Added Hannah Smith: "Yeah, I've lived here my whole life and nothing like this has ever happened before. It's a big shock, definitely."

Fairchild would not comment about where Howell may be, but said he should be considered armed and dangerous.

He drives a green, four-door Saturn SL with a license plate GEL 6018.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Lucedale Police Department.

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