Man pleads guilty to murdering his grandmother

Published 8:58 pm Wednesday, November 8, 2023

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By BARTON PERKINS | Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – On June 22, 2022, deputies from the Shelby County sheriff’s office found the body of Dinah Davis Northcutt, age 77.

Northcutt had been stabbed to death with a knife.

Now, more than a year later, Northcutt’s grandson Richard Alan Howell, 31, has plead guilty to her murder.

Howell had originally been arrested and charged for the murder of his grandmother on June 22, 2022, at approximately 7:20 p.m. after a Shelby County 911 dispatcher received a call in reference to a suspicious person in the 100 block of Highway 97 in the Summerhill community near Columbiana.

The responding sheriff’s deputies would later receive additional information that resulted in them finding Northcutt’s body, and law enforcement would quickly deem her death a homicide.

Information gathered by investigators at the scene quickly led to Howell’s arrest, and he was subsequently held at Shelby County jail on a $150,000.00 bond for the charge of murder.

Howell remained in custody at Shelby County Jail for the entirety of the 496 days since his initial arrest and his decision to plead guilty to the murder.

Judge Lara Alvis sentenced Howell to life in prison, though he will receive credit for the time he has already spent in jail.

 The lead investigator for this case was Derek Dixon from the Shelby County Sheriff’s department, and it was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney’s Sarah Beth Eldridge and Matthew Kimbrough.

“We are pleased to bring justice to the victim’s family in this tragedy and secure a plea that both the family and law enforcement thought was appropriate,” District Attorney Matt Casey said. “We are also very thankful for the hard work of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation of this case.”