Howell, Bailey and Howell's brother, Patrick, were involved in a drug ring that transported drugs from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to be sold in Marianna. Bailey could link Howell and his brother to a prior murder and Howell intended to eliminate Bailey as a witness.
After constructing the bomb, Howell placed it in a microwave oven and wrapped it so that it looked like a present. Howell commissioned Lester Watson to drive to Bailey's house and deliver the present. Watson had knowledge that Howell made pipe bombs however, he suspected that drugs were in the microwave. Watson drove in a car rented by Howell and was accompanied by Curtis Williams.
Trooper Jimmy Fulford stopped Watson for speeding on I-10 on his way to Marianna. Fulford ran a registration check, but when he asked for Watson's license, Watson gave him a false name and date of birth due to his lack of a valid driver's license.
When Fulford called into dispatch, they relayed to him that the car had been rented to Howell. Dispatch contacted Howell who, when asked if the rental car was stolen, said that he had loaned the vehicle to Watson, but claimed he was unaware that he would traveling so far from his home in Ft. Lauderdale. Dispatch told Howell that Watson would be taken to the Jefferson County Jail however, Howell did not give any indication to dispatch that there was a bomb in the car.
Jefferson County Sheriff's Department deputies Harrell and Blount arrived at the scene and were granted permission by Watson to search the car. The deputies and Trooper Fulford noticed the gift-wrapped package in the trunk.
Watson was arrested for driving without a valid license and speeding. The deputies took him, along with Williams, to the jail. Trooper Fulford was left alone with the car and, shortly thereafter, there was a massive explosion at the scene. The State's explosive expert testified at trial that Fulford was holding the package when the bomb detonated. Fulford's instantaneous death was a direct result of massive trauma from the explosion.
Howell was arrested and charged with the murder of Trooper Fulford.