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Man who admitted to killing his grandmother and burying her in the backyard ordered to undergo mental evaluation

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Harley L. Howell appears in court Thursday for a preliminary hearing. Magistrate Judge James H. Barrett Jr. ordered Howell to undergo a competency evaluation. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

BLACKFOOT — A judge ordered a Shelley man who deputies say admitted to killing and burying his grandmother in the backyard nearly half a decade ago to undergo a competency evaluation Thursday.

Harley L. Howell, 24, was charged June 13 with felony abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult along with felony failure to report a death. The charges come almost five years after investigators believe Howell killed 78-year-old Naoma Ware, left her in a closet and buried her in her backyard months later. The case only came to light when authorities tried to contact Ware about her daughter, Danielle L. Howell, being killed in a car crash in 2018.

RELATED | Man admits to killing his grandmother and burying her in the backyard nearly 5 years ago

Howell’s father, Douglas Howell, is also charged with felony abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult.

Naoma Ware, the 78-year-old woman deputies say was killed by her grandson, who later buried her in the backyard. | Idaho Cold Cases, Facebook

At Thursday’s preliminary hearing Magistrate Judge James H. Barrett Jr. ordered Harley Howell to undergo the competency evaluation before testifying as a witness in Douglas Howell’s case. In court, Bingham County Prosecutor Paul Rogers said the testimony of Harley and a polygraph examiner are key to the cases.

Harley and Douglas Howell’s defense attorneys, Douglas Dykman and Robert Kelly Beck, respectively, did not oppose Rogers’ request to have Harley undergo the competency evaluation and continue the preliminary hearing.

Douglas Howell next to his attorney Robert Beck at a preliminary hearing Thursday at the Bingham County Courthouse. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

Rogers told the court Thursday he plans to meet with the Howells and their attorneys over the next week to present options for plea agreements in the cases.

Both Howells remain out of custody and are scheduled to continue the preliminary hearing Aug. 22 at the Bingham County Courthouse. If convicted, Harley Howell could spend up to 20 years in prison, and Douglas Howell could spend up to 10 years in prison.

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