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Victim testifies at prelim in attempted murder case

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A judge on Wednesday sent a Wellington man’s attempted murder case to a grand jury for review after a hearing that afternoon.

Rodney David Howle, 50, who was arrested in February, had his case bound over after the hour-long hearing, in which the victim and an officer testified.

The first witness, Calhoun County sheriff’s investigator Nick Abernathy, said deputies were sent around 10:30 a.m. Jan. 12 to a mobile home on Ben Martin Drive in Wellington, where they found a man had been shot in the face.

Abernathy, who had reviewed police reports, the victim’s statement and Howle’s statement before the hearing, said deputies were able to briefly speak to the victim in the back of an ambulance. The victim identified Howle, a former friend and neighbor, as the shooter, Abernathy said. Medics took the victim to UAB hospital in Birmingham.

According to Abernathy, Howle had gone to check on the victim, as he often did, when they got into an argument. Howle’s statement said the argument was over the victim’s alleged drug use, while the victim’s statement said they had gotten into an argument over who would lead the “Calhoun County militia,” after Howle said the victim wasn’t fit because of his limited mobility.

The victim then hit Howle with his wooden cane and Howle pointed a 25-caliber pistol near his mouth, Abernathy said. The victim, “said shoot me,” not thinking Howle would do it, Abernathy said.

One witness who came forward told authorities he had been checking his mail nearby when Howle opened the door of his truck, put the gun in the truck and ordered him to “get rid of it,” Abernathy said. The witness declined to take the gun and Howle took it back, per Abernathy.

Deputies found Howle at his home about 700 yards away, Abernathy said. 

The victim, who sat in a wheelchair facing District Judge Randy Moeller, said Howle had been at his home, standing next to the recliner he was seated in, and the two were talking to the victim’s girlfriend on speakerphone about the militia. The conversation caused Howle to get heated, the victim said. 

“He just kept on and on,” the victim said. “He wouldn’t shut up, so she just hung up the phone.”

The victim said Howle started ranting about all the favors he had done for him in the past, and approached him four times with the gun. The third time, the victim said, he picked up his cane and hit Howle in the knees. 

Howle pressed the gun against his cheek and then fired, the victim said. 

“I said, ‘Rodney, I can’t believe you just shot me,’” he said.

Howle offered to take him to the hospital, he said, but he declined and called 911.

The victim spent 33 days in the hospital, he said, where he received four pints of blood and tested positive for COVID-19.

When approached for comment after the hearing, Howle threatened a reporter with a lawsuit. An attempt Wednesday afternoon to reach his defense attorney, Bill Broome, was not immediately successful.

Attempted murder is a Class A felony. If convicted, Howle could be sentenced to life in prison and owe up to a $60,000 fine.

Contact Staff Writer Mia Kortright at 256-235-3563 or akortrig@gmail.com.