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April 23, 2014

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Man arrested in 2008 death of woman found in trash can

Updated Friday, Nov. 6, 2009 | 4:46 p.m.

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Khalfani Howard

Click to enlarge photo

Helena Haley

The arrest of a man by Metro Police and San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies wanted for a 2008 homicide in Las Vegas came after months of detective interviews, reviewed videotapes and DNA traced to an envelope.

Officers arrested 29-year-old Khalfani Howard of San Bernardino on Wednesday at his California home. Howard is being held without bail in the San Bernardino County Jail awaiting extradition to Clark County, where he will stand trial, said Metro Sgt. Russ Shoemaker.

A woman looking at clothing spilling out of a 30-gallon, blue Rubbermaid garbage can in a parking lot on the northwest corner of Carson Avenue and South Eighth Street on Sept. 10, 2008 thought she saw an arm and part of a stomach of a woman as she removed clothing from the trash can, an arrest report said.

The woman went back to her own apartment with a small red shirt from the clothing pile and called police. A surveillance camera and witnesses in the area told police that the garbage can was not in the parking lot the day before it was found.

The woman's body underwent an autopsy on Sept. 11, 2008, and the coroner's office said the cause of death was suspicious, but undetermined. The coroner concluded she could have been asphyxiated, the arrest report said. At the time, the woman was known as Jane "Carson" Doe, because her body was discovered on Carson Avenue.

On Jan. 10, 2009, a cousin of the woman called the coroner's office and said Helena Haley had left her mother's home in Whiteville, N.C., and was moving to San Bernardino to live with an aunt.

In turn, the aunt in San Bernardino referred police to an apartment in Las Vegas on Bridger Avenue. She said Haley and Howard had moved into the apartment.

The coroner's office identified Haley on Jan. 14.

Metro Police detectives also learned about a letter sent by Haley to her aunt. The envelope had no stamp and no return address and her aunt didn't recognize the handwriting as Haley's, according to the arrest report.

The aunt and uncle also told police they had received a phone call from a woman identifying herself as Haley, but that the voice didn't sound like their niece.

Metro detectives interviewed Howard at his San Bernardino home on July 28. He said Haley moved to Las Vegas on her own after taking her children back to North Carolina. At the time, police collected a DNA sample by swabbing Howard's cheek.

The detectives also told Howard that they knew he and Haley lived in an apartment on Bridger Street. He denied any connection to the apartment, the letter or the phone call, the arrest report said.

Detectives traced the Bridger apartment contract and movements of Haley and Howard between San Bernardino and Las Vegas through Greyhound bus tickets. Another resident of the Bridger apartment complex was interviewed by Metro detectives and identified Howard. She saw him pushing a shopping cart full of clothing and thought he was going to the laundry room, but he walked by and she never saw him again.

Metro's forensic lab informed detectives on Oct. 5 that the DNA recovered from an envelope and fingerprints on the letter matched Howard's DNA. The trail of bus tickets also showed Howard left Las Vegas for San Bernardino late Sept. 10, 2008, the day Haley's body was discovered.

A warrant for Howard's arrest was issued Oct. 6.

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