BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The Tehachapi woman acquitted of murder for killing an ex-boyfriend who molested two of her daughters has been scheduled for retrial in April on a charge of voluntary manslaughter after a judge said no resolution has been reached despite lengthy discussions.
A motions date was also set during Friday’s hearing after Wendy Howard’s defense attorney argued his client has technically been fully acquitted and retrying her would constitute double jeopardy. Once acquitted, a person can’t be retried for the same offense.
A jury acquitted Howard of murder in October and of involuntary manslaughter and one theory of voluntary manslaughter but couldn’t reach a consensus on voluntary manslaughter in the heat of passion. Defense attorney Tony Lidgett apparently plans to argue that acquittal on one theory counts as a full acquittal for voluntary manslaughter and the case is over.
Howard entered a once in jeopardy plea during the hearing. Lidgett said he’ll file a motion which will be heard Feb. 21.
Lidgett and prosecutor Eric Smith, among others, are barred from speaking with the media about the case due to a gag order so 17 News was unable to get a further explanation of his argument.
Also, specifics of any plea offers that were under consideration were not discussed in court.
Judge Charles R. Brehmer scheduled a retrial for April 17, but if Lidgett is successful in his motion that date will be vacated.
Howard shot Kelly Rees Pitts on June 5, 2019, on Appaloosa Court, three days after she learned Pitts molested their then-teenage daughter Bayley Frost. Although they broke up years ago, Pitts lived a few houses down from Howard. Another daughter reported molestation years ago but ultimately no charges were filed.
At trial, Howard testified she feared for her life when she confronted Pitts on June 5, 2019, over his molestation of the daughter they shared in common. She said she fired in self-defense.
The prosecution has argued Howard armed herself — placing a handgun in her back waistband where Pitts couldn’t see it — and intended to provoke him. Prosecutor Eric Smith said she initiated the contact so she could administer “vigilante justice” instead of letting police finish their investigation.