Man pleads guilty in two assault cases

LAWRENCEVILLE - A 46-year-old Duluth man was sentenced to life in prison this week for assaulting and robbing two elderly victims in separate incidents last year.

Sidney Wayne Howell pleaded guilty to multiple felony offenses including kidnapping, aggravated battery, rape and burglary. Prosecutors said Howell attacked a 62-year-old Duluth man with a knife and later raped an 89-year-old woman from Norcross.

"The community is a safer place thanks to the hard work of investigators with the city of Duluth Police Department, Gwinnett County Police Department, the Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office and especially the citizens of Gwinnett County that came forward and aided investigators and prosecutors," said Cpl. Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department.

Howell was hired to mow the lawn of a 62-year-old Duluth man who was in poor health after a friend introduced the two men on April 10, 2005. The following evening, Howell returned to the victim's house and complained of being tired and hungry.

The victim kindly invited him inside, gave him a beer and fed him, said Marty First, assistant district attorney for Gwinnett County. Howell then grabbed a steak knife from the kitchen and attacked the man, First said.

The victim was shoved into the living room, where Howell reportedly took $1,500 from his wallet and left him hog-tied with his hands and feet behind his back.

The victim was able to identify Howell from a photographic lineup. Police immediately issued arrest warrants for Howell, but he remained on the lam for several months.

Then on June 9, 2005, Howell entered an unlocked door and confronted an 89-year-old woman in the bedroom of her house on Rockbridge Way in Norcross. Authorities said Howell threw a piece of clothing over her head, overpowered her and raped her. During the struggle, several of the woman's teeth were knocked out and she sustained bruises all over her body.

Howell fled the house in the victim's 1986 Oldmobile sedan. Later that afternoon, a Decatur police officer spotted the car and tried to initiate a traffic stop, but Howell fled on foot and eluded capture.

Howell turned himself in July 31, 2005, at the Gwinnett County Detention Center.