A Tehachapi woman accused of murdering her ex-husband confronted him with photographic proof of acts of sexual abuse moments before shooting him, reports from the Tehachapi Police Department say.
Wendy Howard, 50, of Tehachapi is charged with first-degree murder. Howard was arrested June 6 after she called 911 to report she had shot her ex-husband, Kelly Rees Pitts, 59, in front of her home at the 400 block of Appaloosa Court, according to TPD police reports filed in Kern County Superior Court.
But supporters of Howard say she was acting in self-preservation and protection for her daughters, who were allegedly sexually abused by Pitts. Howard said she was physically abused by Pitts — and Pitts had previously tried to rape and kill her, according to the TPD reports filed in court.
Howard was booked into the Kern County Jail on suspicion of murder. She pleaded not guilty, and her bail was set at $1 million.
Howard is scheduled to appear in court Friday for a motion hearing to compel pretrial discovery. Family and friends of Howard are expected to attend the hearing.
Howard's attorney, Tony V. Lidgett, has not returned calls for comment.
Deputy District Attorney Courtney Lewis declined to comment on the case.
Howard told police she separated from Pitts in 2005 because of physical and verbal abuse.
Just four days before Howard shot and killed Pitts, she and her daughter reported to the Tehachapi Police Department that Pitts had been sexually abusing their teenage daughter for almost two years, according to the police reports filed in court.
The Californian generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse; however, in this case, the people have spoken out publicly.
Key Budge, spokesman for the Tehachapi Police Department, declined to comment on the case.
During conversations with police, Howard said she showed a photo to Pitts of him acting inappropriately with a daughter, to which Pitts claimed their daughter was "a lying (expletive) and it did not happen," court documents say.
Howard said Pitts, who was sitting on his four-wheeler in the front of the house, began to drive toward her on June 6 and claimed Pitts ran over the corner of her right foot.
Detective Mark Machanic of the Tehachapi Police Department said in a report filed in Kern County Superior Court that Howard did not have injuries on her foot consistent with it being run over.
Their daughter, who witnessed the shooting, told the detective that it seemed like Pitts "was trying to run (Howard) over" with the four-wheeler, TPD documents say.
Howard didn't know if Pitts was trying to intimidate her or run her over, but it caused her to pull out a gun, being held by her waistband in the small of her back, and shoot Pitts, the TPD documents say. Howard told the detective that she felt threatened by Pitts, and she began carrying her gun as a way to protect her family.
Pitts' eldest daughter also accused Pitts of sexual abuse from 2002 to 2005, according to court documents. The District Attorney's office declined to prosecute Pitts due to a lack of evidence.
A community of support
Since she was arrested, GoFundme, Twitter and Facebook pages have been created in support of Howard and to bring awareness to the circumstances surrounding Pitts' death. A petition asking the DA's office to drop charges against Howard has also circulated the internet.
"Our mother is currently incarcerated for an alleged unjustifiable homicide," reads the Facebook page. "In truth, she defended herself and her family against a man who has abused her, members of our family and others for many years. She does not deserve this! She deserved justice!"
We all had many reasons to have been afraid.— JusticeForWendyHoward (@JusticeForWend1) June 14, 2019
Our mother loves her life and her children with everything that she is. She had no choice, but to defend herself and her family against a man who had already tried to kill her before.
Through the Justice For Wendy Facebook page, supporters were urged to write letters asking the DA's office to reduce bail, consider all evidence available and to release Howard from jail.