A Harford County man charged with spraying his neighbor with gasoline and attempting to set him on fire for dating his estranged wife in 2019 pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree assault in court Thursday.
Selvyn Lamont Howell, 44, of Edgewood, was initially charged with attempted first- and attempted second-degree murder, but reached an agreement with prosecutors. Harford County Circuit Court Judge Angela Eaves accepted his Alford plea and sentenced him to 10 years, suspending all of that jail time except time already served, and three years of probation.
An Alford plea is where a defendant admits the evidence is sufficient to find them guilty but does not admit their guilt. It functions as a guilty plea, but not all U.S. courts accept them.
Harford County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the 1700 block of Fountain Rock Way in Edgewood in May 2019, where they met with the victim, who said he had been doused in gasoline and his home’s windows had been broken, according to charging documents filed in Harford County District Court.
The victim told police that he had been dating Howell’s estranged wife but wanted to keep it a secret, according to the documents. He knew Howell, his neighbor, would be angry if he found out they were dating, he told police.
On May 20, 2019, the neighbor drove Howell’s estranged wife to an address on Pulaski Highway in Edgewood. While she was inside, he saw Howell running toward his car.
“Howell ran up to his vehicle and started to spray gasoline through the open passenger side window,” the documents state.
Howell said he was going to light the neighbor up. The victim told police he got out of his car and pinned Howell to the side of the car when he saw him reach into his pockets; he thought Howell was looking for a lighter to ignite the gasoline, according to charging documents.
The victim told police Howell kept saying “you gonna pay for this” and “you dealing with my wife,” the documents state.
Howell used an empty soap bottle to hold the gasoline, according to the charging documents; the neighbor told police he had seen it before when the two were hanging out a few weeks earlier. He asked Howell what he was going to use it for, the documents state, and Howell told him he was going to light another person on fire for dating his child’s mother, who was not his wife.
During the skirmish in Edgewood, the neighbor told Howell to calm down and Howell eventually let him go, according to charging documents. But when the victim returned to his house, he found his windows broken, and Howell began texting him — telling him to have fun with his wife and that he was going to put the neighbor in jail.
Eaves also ordered Howell to pay approximately $655 to replace the windows, and warned him to abide by the conditions of his probation, which also required mental health treatment, no contact with the parties in the case and her approval before he leaves the state for personal reasons.
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“You are on probation to the court, not probation to yourself,” she said.