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UPDATED: N.C. murder suspect captured in Galax

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By Staff Reports

UPDATED: MAY 24, 10:20 A.M.

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A murder suspect arrested Wednesday in Galax is now charged with homicide in Wake County, N.C., in connection with the death of his wife.

The Galax Police Department arrested Sonny Lee Howard, 42, of Raleigh, N.C., and charged him with being a fugitive from North Carolina.

Local officers found the body of Howard's wife, 50-year-old Sherry Howard, in the bed of his pickup when they stopped the vehicle around 3 p.m. on May 23, near the intersection of Stuart Drive/U.S. 58 and Stockyard Road.

Police have not said how Sherry Howard died, or where. The body will be taken to the Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office in Roanoke for autopsy.

Wake County deputies received a call to the Howards' home near Raleigh on Wednesday morning, after a neighbor reported seeing a dead body in the backyard, according to Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison. Officers searched the house, but did not find a body.

The Howards were not there, nor was Sonny Howard's dark green, extended cab Ford pickup truck.

Deputies began a search for Howard and the vehicle, with alerts reaching as far as Southwest Virginia. Galax, Carroll and Grayson law enforcement had been requested to be on the lookout for the vehicle.

Police were tracking Howard's cell phone, and discovered that he was traveling nine miles south of a cell phone tower in Hillsville.

Galax Police Capt. James Cox and Officer Drew Bobbitt spotted the pickup traveling west on Stuart Drive/U.S. 58 in the city at approximately 2:50 p.m.

Police stopped the truck at the U.S. 58/Stockyard Road intersection and 15 to 20 officers from Carroll, Galax, Grayson County and Virginia State Police converged on the scene with guns drawn.

Galax Police Chief Rick Clark said Howard did not resist arrest.

Clark said Galax and Wake County detectives are working together on the investigation. Wake County detectives were in Galax on Wednesday evening to interview Howard about his wife's death.

Howard's extradition to North Carolina is being coordinated by the district attorney of Wake County and the Carroll County commonwealth's attorney's office.

Howard will appear in the Galax District Court for arraignment on Friday.

He is being held without bond in the New River Valley Jail.

News reports out of North Carolina say that Sonny and Sherry Howard had been married for almost 20 years and had a teen son together.

There is no indication at this time of a history of domestic violence.

Many of the Howards' neighbors in Wake County, N.C., — which is near Raleigh — are Sherry Howard's family members, according to an article in the News & Observer newspaper in Raleigh. They told reporters there were no obvious signs of trouble.

Sherry Howard was a retired school cafeteria worker. Sonny Howard owns a roofing and construction company.

News outlets in North Carolina also report that Sonny Howard had a criminal record, but had not been in trouble with the law for more than 20 years.

The News & Observer reports that Howard was charged in 1988 with three counts of armed robbery and multiple counts of felony and misdemeanor breaking and entering.

Howard, also known as “Hot Rod” according to the N.C. Department of Corrections, was sentenced in 1988 to more than 20 years in prison as a youthful offender. He served eight years and was paroled in 1996, the newspaper reports.

In 2007, Howard was charged with a probation violation after he was convicted of communicating threats and resisting an officer.