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Brandon counselor charged in shooting of man revealed as former client and lover

TAMPA — A Brandon mental health counselor accused of shooting an acquaintance in her office has turned herself in to authorities.

Deputies say the Oct. 17 shooting wasn't in self-defense and that counselor Sarah Hughey, 50, hid the fact that she was romantically involved with the victim, who had been one of her clients.

Hughey faces charges of aggravated battery and giving false information to a law enforcement officer. Authorities issued the warrant Dec. 21 and she turned herself in after Christmas.

Deputies say that on a Monday afternoon in October, Arthur Cornelius Howard, 30, stopped by the counselor's office, off U.S. 301, and she called him into her office.

Howard asked for some of his belongings back, and at some point during their discussion, Hughey shot him in the shoulder, deputies say.

The wound wasn't life-threatening and deputies didn't arrest the counselor. They had to sort out two vastly different stories and conduct their own investigation.

Eventually, deputies concluded that the counselor lied to them about her relationship with Howard to impede the investigation, an arrest affidavit states.

Hughey's attorney, John Fitzgibbons, declined to comment.

Howard's sister, Delphanie Thompson, said that before the shooting, she saw her brother and Hughey together about a dozen times.

She said the two had a relationship dating back to Howard's release from federal prison in December 2010. She saw the pair holding hands and kissing, she said, and she went with them to Ybor City and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

It was an odd pairing, she said. Howard has spent most of his adult life behind bars. Hughey is a counselor and grandmother who lives in a $248,000 home on an Apollo Beach canal with her husband.

Howard couldn't be reached Friday, but Thompson said their family would be pleased with the charges.

"I'm glad they finally did something," she said.

She said her brother has moved to the Orlando area to be near family.

Over the past two months, deputies released little information on the shooting. The first arrest — just three days after the incident — was for unrelated charges.

While investigating, detectives say they came across evidence that Hughey and an unnamed witness sold some of her gold jewelry at a flea market, then filed a false police report and false insurance claim, saying it was stolen.

She waived her right to a speedy trial in that case, and no hearing date has been set.

Hughey still has her counseling license.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Brandon counselor charged in shooting of man revealed as former client and lover 01/06/12 [Last modified: Friday, January 6, 2012 11:36pm]
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