1. Archive

Sexual predator guilty in killings

He is convicted of strangling two sisters while on supervised release for a sex crime.

The man whose case led to a Florida law expanding public access to information on convicted sexual predators was convicted Wednesday of murdering two sisters.

Howard Steven Ault, 33, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the November 1996 strangulation of DeAnn Mu'min, 11, and her sister, Alicia Jones, 7, after raping the older girl.

Ault was also convicted on two counts of capital sexual battery, kidnapping and aggravated child abuse. He could face the death penalty.

Ault confessed to the murders after police found the girls' bodies in his attic, two days after they were killed.

Ault's defense attorney had asked the jury to convict him of second-degree murder in an effort to spare him from the electric chair.

Jurors will reconvene Sept. 22 to recommend whether Ault should be executed or sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Ault was on supervised community release for a 1988 sex crime when he befriended the girls' mother and picked the girls up from school one day and promised them candy.

Ault sexually assaulted DeAnn at his Fort Lauderdale home as she struggled and screamed, "I don't want to ruin my life!" Assistant State Attorney Timothy Donnelly said in the trial's opening arguments.

Alicia then screamed that she would tell her mother what had happened, and Ault killed the girls, Donnelly said.

"He choked the life out of their wonderful existences and dumped their bodies in the rafters like they were refuse," Donnelly said.

As a result of Ault's case, legislators passed a bill in 1997 tightening loopholes on public listings of registered sexual predators.

The law provided several measures, such as a toll-free number to find out information on sexual offenders. Photos of offenders are provided on request.

The law also combined resources of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the state Department of Corrections and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in keeping track of sexual offenders and predators.

The designation of "sexual predator" is reserved for sexual offenders who commit more serious crimes, including first-degree rape or sexual assault against a child.