Palm Bay man accused of shooting, burning & burying his girlfriend after argument

PALM BAY, Fla. — A 32-year-old Palm Bay was arrested in the shooting of a 44-year-old woman missing from Indian Harbour Beach, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office said Friday afternoon.


Investigators said they arrested Daniel Stearns after human remains were discovered in a densely wooded area in Palm Bay.

Deputies said the remains are believed to be those of Nancy Howery, who was reported missing to the Indian Harbour Beach Police Department on Feb. 18.

Indian Harbour Beach police detectives said they discovered evidence that suggested that Howery might have been a victim of foul play, and the Sheriff’s Office took over the investigation when it was determined that the incident happened in its jurisdiction.

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Investigators said Stearns was identified as a suspect in Howery’s disappearance, and surveillance was then conducted on him.

Early Thursday, Stearns was seen leaving his home and traveling to an undeveloped, wooded area in Palm Bay commonly referred to as “The Compound,” detectives said.

Investigators said they saw Stearns trying to dispose of evidence, and he was then detained.

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Detectives said they searched several areas where they discovered human remains.

“Further forensic testing will need to be conducted in order to positively identify the victim of the human remains located,” the agency said in a news release.

Investigators said that Stearns and Howery had been in a relationship, and they got into an argument Feb. 15 -- the last day she was seen alive.

They said Stearns fatally shot Howery during the argument and “over the next few days,” he burned her body and buried her remains in several different places.

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Stearns was taken into custody Friday afternoon after a judge signed an arrest warrant, charging him with second-degree murder, tampering with evidence and mutilation of a dead body.

He is being held without bail at the Brevard County Jail.

Anyone who might have information about Howery’s death is asked to call Brevard County Agent Tyler Peterson at 321-633-8400.

Watch an update from the sheriff below:

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Jason Kelly

Jason Kelly, WFTV.com

Jason Kelly joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2014. He serves as the station's Digital Executive Producer.

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