Xavier Howard is a Houston man accused of strangling his mother-in-law and then setting his house on fire, with his young daughters inside, to cover up her murder, police say. Howard and his daughters were hospitalized after the fire, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. He was arrested after recovering from the effects of smoke inhalation, authorities said. His daughters also recovered, the sheriff’s office said in a press release.
Tammy Mouton, 53, was found dead inside a home on Trementina Drive, near West Montgomery Road and West Mount Houston, on January 7, 2022, the sheriff’s office said. Howard’s children, ages 8 and 10, and Howard were found outside the home unresponsive and suffering from smoke inhalation, according to the sheriff’s office. On January 25, Howard, 34, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder after Harris County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Investigators learned Mouton had died by strangulation. Howard’s wife wasn’t home at the time of the fire.
“The investigation revealed that Howard intentionally set fire to his residence to conceal Mouton’s death. He initially fled the scene and returned minutes later to help neighbors remove his two children from the residence,” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a statement. “Mouton, who is Howard’s mother-in-law, had recently moved into the residence. Howard has been arrested and booked into the Harris County Jail.”
Police Say No Soot Was Found in Howard’s Mother-in-Law’s Lungs & She Had Suffered Blunt Force Trauma & a Broken Neck
According to court documents, Howard is accused of setting fire to his own house, which endangered his two daughters inside, to cover up the murder of his mother-in-law. Prosecutors said Howard claimed he had “rescued” his daughters. He and the children were hospitalized with critical injuries, but recovered, court documents show.
According to prosecutors, the coroner reported Tammy Mouton “was deceased before fire (no soot in lungs),” and suffered “blunt force trauma, broken neck, petechiae.” Howard told police he was sleeping at a Walmart parking lot before the fire and had returned home to save his children after learning the house was ablaze. But video from a neighbors’ camera contradicted his story, according to court documents. Howard was also accused of trying to escape from custody when he was arrested.
Court records show Howard is being held on $2 million bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for May 11, 2022. His public defender could not immediately be reached for comment by Heavy on Houston. Howard was booked into the Harris County Jail on January 25 and made his first court appearance on January 26. Prosecutors said Howard, “is a flight risk, safety risk to family, allegedly knowingly endangered lives of his two children to cover this offense.”
Howard Was Previously Arrested on a Domestic Violence Charge in 2020 After He Was Accused of Choking His
Xavier Howard has no prior convictions in Harris County, but court records show he was arrested on February 24, 2019, on a charge of assault of a family member by impeding breathing, a felony. Howard was accused of choking his wife, the mother of the woman Howard is now charged with strangling to death, court records show. Howard was arrested by the Harris County Constable Precinct 1, according to court documents.
The incident occurred at the Trementina Drive home where police say Howard killed his mother-in-law less than two years after his first arrest. In that cases, prosecutors sought a high bond or no bail, writing in court documents, “defendant tried to murder complainant and will likely try again.”
Further details about the case were not immediately available. Howard was allowed to enroll in the Batterers Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP), which he completed in January 2020. Howard had his case dismissed after completing the program.
According to KTRK, “Investigators said they spoke to Mouton’s daughter, who is also the sister of Howard’s wife, who told them the wife sent texts to her the night before the fire that said, ‘He’s tripping again.’ The victim’s daughter told investigators her mother and sister had discussed previous ‘strange and violent’ behavior from Howard toward them in the past. … Investigators searched Howard’s cellphone and found texts between him and his wife, where he was asking her to come home. She reportedly told him to leave her alone and referenced Howard’s alleged past attempts to kill her.”