‘I hope he catches all the hell coming his way’: Mother of Waco woman killed by boyfriend reacts to suspect’s plea deal

Michael Matthew Howard Jr. pleaded guilty to murder in killing of SaKyra Young
Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 3:43 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A Waco man who shot and killed his girlfriend in 2020 in what police described as a fatal escalation of domestic violence was sentenced to 55 years in prison.

Michael Matthew Howard Jr., 22, pleaded guilty to murder Monday after prosecutors reduced a capital murder charge and recommended 55 years in prison.

It’s a sentence Latoya Wells, the mother of SaKyra, says has finally brought her a sense of closure.

“For me, it was like a deep breath,” Wells told KWTX. “I finally took a deep breath, it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders, like ‘it’s done, it’s done, you don’t have to worry about this boy ever again.’”

Judge Susan Kelly of Waco’s 54th State District Court accepted the plea agreement and canceled Howard’s trial, which had been set to begin Monday.

The plea is a compromise Howard’s attorney calls “a win,” given the maximum charge for capital murder cases is either 60 years, life without parole, or a death sentence.

“Certainly Michael Howard didn’t want to go to prison,” Russell Hunt, Howard’s attorney, said. “But Michael realized what he did and he felt badly about it. And so what he wanted us to do was to work out the best deal we could because he knew he’d have to be punished for what he did.”

Howard, who has been jailed 837 days waiting for his case to be resolved, confessed in the August 2020 shooting death of his 21-year-old girlfriend, SaKyra Young, an incident Young’s family and friends are using to raise awareness about domestic violence.

In 2020, Waco police responded to reports of gunfire found Young lying in the 2900 block of McFerrin Avenue with multiple gunshot wounds. Police reported Young was shot as she drove on McFerrin, causing her to crash into a fence.

A witness who knows Howard reported seeing him carrying Young after he shot her, according to court records.

“SaKyra Young was holding the back of her neck, saying her neck hurt and Michael Howard said to (the witness) to help him,” an arrest affidavit states. “(The witness) told (officers) that he told SaKyra Young to be real still and tried to lower her to the ground not to hurt her neck.”

After she was on the ground, Howard pulled out a gun, shot Young in the head and ran away, according to the affidavit.

Police found Howard hiding under a blanket as he rode in a car near the intersection of Lake Shore Drive and Gholson Road about three hours after the shooting.

Young’s family and friends have established the Forever Young Scholarship in Young’s memory to help raise awareness about domestic violence.

“The importance of SaKyra’s foundation is to help local high school students with a chance to further their education in college,” Wells said. “I’m just glad that her name is attached to something that’s good, something that changes lives.”

Howard must be given credit for serving at least half of his 55-year term before he can seek parole.

“I hope he catches all the hell that’s coming his way,” Wells said.