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Howard accepts plea agreement
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In a surprising turn of events, what was expected to be a weeklong trial ended abruptly when murder suspect Jason Howard suddenly accepted a deal in exchange for pleading guilty to two counts of voluntary manslaughter in connection with the 2004 deaths of his mother and stepfather, Mildred and Jewel Cleveland, in their Gum Branch home.

Howard immediately was sentenced to 20 years for each count, to run concurrent, with credit for time served.

Howard originally was charged with six counts of murder; two counts of aggravated assault; two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit certain felonies; one count of receipt, possession or transfer of a firearm by convicted felon or felony first offender; and two counts of concealing death of another.

Read the full story in Wednesday's Coastal Courier.

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