By Joe Johnson
A judge on Friday amended the bond of an Athens man’s killer, lifting a house-arrest order and instating a nighttime curfew.
Western Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Eric Norris’ amended bond order infuriated the widow of Mark Alden Howard, who was gunned down in broad daylight by Reginald Lang Kelley the afternoon of Aug. 25, in broad daylight with plenty of witnesses around and in view of a surveillance camera at the Apex Chevron gas station on North Avenue.
“Mark and I had been married for almost 22 years and we were together 25,” Natalie Howard said.
“In the blink of an eye our lives changed forever. I had been home sick since March and was just returning to work part time when he was killed. We have four children together and he has other children and family and friends that miss him dearly,” she said. “We have pretty much given up any hopes for justice at this point because keeping a person in jail for a probation violation and letting someone be free who is charged with malice and felony murder makes completely no sense.”
Athens-Clarke County police said that Kelley and Howard had an ongoing dispute that came to a fatal conclusion when the men had a chance encounter at the gas station.
On Sept. 16, after hearing evidence that Kelley claimed to have shot Howard in self-defense, had no prior felony convictions and had family ties in the community, Norris granted Kelley a $50,000 good security bond, with the conditions he wear an ankle monitor and remain under 24-hour house arrest while awaiting trial.
During that hearing, Norris heard from a detective who testified that Howard got out of his car and went to Kelley’s car where the men exchanged words. Howard then pulled on the car door, and as it opened, Kelley shot Howard two times at close range with a handgun while seated in the driver’s seat, the detective testified.
Kelley remained at the scene until police arrived and took him into custody.
Kelley’s attorney on Jan. 12 filed a motion to amend the bond conditions, and after a hearing Friday Norris removed the house arrest condition and imposed a nighttime curfew, that Kelley remain at his residence in Bethlehem each day from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. The judge barred him from Athens-Clarke County, except to attend to court matters pertaining to his criminal case.
After hearing from Natalie Howard that Kelley had approached one of her children last month at an Athens gas station, while the house arrest was still in place, Norris included in the amended bond conditions that Kelley cannot stop anywhere in the county, except the probation office. He is still required to wear an ankle monitor.
“In December he was at a gas station in Clarke County and saw my son whom he knows personally and attempted to approach and my son, who drove off,” Natalie Howard said. “This is also on tape and confirmed by the leg monitor. Once again, an excuse that he had to get gas, which is the same excuse he used after sitting at the gas station for 9 1/2 minutes before killing my husband. Nothing was done.
“Now his lawyer filed a motion to revise his bond which we had court on Friday,” she said. “I had to make a statement explaining how much this affects my family. And he was granted a curfew to have more freedom and do as he pleases from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. We are now on the third prosecutor, same judge, and no answers or reasoning for why. This definitely has not been easy. Our youngest son has lots of health problems and this has really taken a toll on his spirit. We feel abandoned.”