Body of missing woman found in car’s trunk

Barbara Howe, who lived on Paxton Circle in Mount Pleasant Retirement Village, had been missing since Sunday afternoon. Her car was found by Middletown police in the parking lot of Woodridge Park East Apartments on Woodridge Drive, near Roosevelt Avenue at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Monroe Police Chief Gregory Homer said her body was found in the trunk, but he refused to release additional details.

Monroe police have scheduled a press conference at 1 p.m. today where more details are expected to be released. The Butler County Coroner’s Office is expected to release the results of her autopsy later today.

According to a police incident report, Middletown Lt. Scott Reeve began looking for Howe’s red Cadillac after the department’s Police Chaplin Lamar Ferrell came to the office expressing concern for the woman who had friends in his congregation at Berachah Baptist Church.

Reeve learned that Monroe police had checked Howe’s former Middletown residence on Eaton Drive, but looked again for the car. He then thought of places where she may have shopped for her vehicle or other items when she lived in the city.

“While driving down Roosevelt Avenue, I noticed the Cadillac parked at Woodridge Apartments near the playground,” Reeve said in a police report.

A resident at the apartment complex, who did not want to be named, said he “vaguely remembered” seeing Howe’s Cadillac parked by the playground at about 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday. The man, who lives across from where the car was found, said that was the first time he recalled seeing the car.

Authorities would not say how long Howe’s body was in the trunk, how she died, or why the car was parked in the apartment complex. Police refused to say whether it’s being investigated as a homicide. They said the cause of death will be determined during the autopsy.

The car — with Howe’s body in the trunk — was towed from the crime scene and placed in “a secure location” where it will be “processed,” said Lt. Brian Curlis of the Monroe Police Department.

Representatives from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation have been called in to assist with the investigation, Butler County Prosecutor Gmoser said.

On Sunday night, Howe had an early dinner with a friend in her home, and a few hours later, forwarded a funny political email to a friend. Then she vanished.

As of 12:30 p.m. today, a Monroe police cruiser remained parked in front of Howe’s residence and yellow police tape was stretched around her home.

William Kinsey, one of Howe’s neighbors, called Howe “a very, very nice lady.”

When he learned of Howe’s death, Kinsey, 82, said he was “astounded” and he had “no idea why this could have happened.”

Howe lived alone in a cottage, and there were no signs of foul play in her residence, police said. Her purse was not in her home, he said.

Stan Kappers, executive director of Mount Pleasant, said he has been meeting with residents in small group sessions today to reassure them and give them “peace of mind.” Kappers said Monroe police told him there was no cause for alarm and that they suspect the incident did not take place on Mount Pleasant property or in the city of Monroe.

The residents of Mount Pleasant have been gathering for prayer vigils over the last few days to “lift up the family in prayer” and will do so again today at 4 p.m., Kappers. The vigil will be for Mount Pleasant residents only and will be closed to the media and general public, he said.

The last several days have been “an awful time” at Mount Pleasant, Kappers said.

“Our hearts are broken because we have lost a member of our family,” he said.

Howe is the widow of Bill Howe, the longtime owner of Howe Motors Chevrolet in Middletown.

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She was known to visit family and friends in the Middletown and Hamilton areas, police said. Howe did not suffer from mental illnesses, and her family said she was “rather sharp.”

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