DAVENPORT, Fla. (WFLA) – A man who authorities describe as a “prolific offender” is back behind bars, accused in a bizarre and terrifying crime. Police say he held Richard Collins and four children hostage in their own home for three months, stealing Collins’ disability payments and food stamps.
Larry Gene Howard faces many charges, including five counts of armed false imprisonment and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
On May 6, Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a home in Davenport after Collins called 911 and said, in part, “He threatened to kill me. He said he was going to kill me today.”
The victim later told deputies that he and his four nieces and nephews, ages 6, 7, 11, and 13, had been held against their will.
“Oh, I was scared for my life and their life,” Collins told News Channel 8 at his home on Adair Road Tuesday afternoon.
He told deputies that approximately three months ago a distant relative, along with a man identified as “Little Man,” came to his home to visit. Two days later, “Little Man,” who was later identified as Larry Gene Howard, came back to the house with his four children and told the victim they were homeless and needed a place to stay. The victim told him he didn’t have enough room and asked him to leave.
“He just came in and squatted and stayed,” Collins explained.
That’s when the victim said Howard walked to his vehicle, retrieved a shotgun, and then pointed it at him. The suspect allegedly said he was going to “lay down the rules.”
Howard allegedly told the victim he and his four children were going to stay at the house.
The victim told deputies he was in fear of his life so he didn’t argue with Howard. “We were just huddled together, stuck together with it, and the first window of opportunity I got to get out of here, I took it,” he told News Channel 8.
The victim told detectives Howard let his two nieces go to school. They were told if they said anything, he would kill their uncles and brothers, Collins said. The victim told investigators the two brothers were not allowed to leave the house.
“It was scary,” said Derick Rautanen, Collin’s nephew. “We always had to be in here.”
His sister, Skye Rautanen, sat next to him on the bed. “They were always watching us,” she said. “They wouldn’t stop watching us at all.”
Howard’s girlfriend, Hannah Wright, then moved into the house.
The victim told deputies he was only allowed to leave the house once in three months.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office investigators say DCF and law enforcement responded to the house on April 14 looking for Howard and his four children. The suspect told the victim not to cooperate.
DCF took Howard’s four children into custody.
During the three-month period in which he was held hostage, the victim said Howard brandished numerous guns and swords and made verbal threats. Howard even allegedly stole the victim’s phone so he couldn’t call law enforcement.
The victim told investigators that on May 6, Howard held a shotgun to his head and told him he was going to die. Soon after, the victim grabbed his nieces and nephews and went to his neighbor’s home and contacted law enforcement.
Deputies responded and set-up a perimeter around the house. Howard’s girlfriend, Hannah Wright, walked out while Howard hid in the crawl space armed with a weapon.
An hour and a half later, a K-9 found Howard in the crawl space
Both the victim and the Howard’s girlfriend, Hannah Wright, said they had seen Howard with the gun on May 6 and in possession of other firearms over the past three months.
News Channel 8 spoke with Howard’s sister, as well as his brother-in-law, Albert Hayes. Both said there is much more to this story than meets the eye.
“He could left at any old time he wanted to,” Hayes said outside his Haines City home. “All I know is that this guy got a whole lot of mess going on here.”
Detectives say Howard has four prior felony convictions and is a suspect in several other crimes that have occurred in the area, including a nearby home invasion in which he was armed with a shotgun. Howard denied involvement in that crime.
He was arrested and charged with five counts of armed false imprisonment, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without the intent to kill, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, grand theft (motor vehicle) and resisting a law enforcement officer without violence.
After Howard was taken into custody, investigators say they discovered the shotgun he allegedly pointed at the victim’s head. Detectives say the serial number had been filed off and the barrel had been intentionally shortened. Howard was also charged with possession of a shortened shotgun and possession of a firearm with an altered serial number.
Detectives continued to investigate and say Howard stole the victim’s monthly disability payment of $718 and his food stamps.
During the three-month imprisonment, detectives say Howard learned of the victim’s sexual orientation. The victim claimed Howard had continually used homosexual slurs and derogatory language when talking to the victim. The victim also said Howard hit him and used the homosexual slurs at the time of the battery. Howard is also being charged with battery (hate crime).
Detectives say Howard also cut a large hole in the floor of the house so he could hide from law enforcement. He is being charged with one count of criminal mischief (over $1,000) for this crime.WHAT OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON RIGHT NOW:
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