Shooting ruled homicide, woman jailed for alleged drug dealing

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Jacklyn Rachelle Steele

The shooting death of a man whose body was found Wednesday morning in North Knox County has been ruled a homicide. 

The victim has been identified as David Richard Howard, 28, of Corryton, according to officials from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

A woman was arrested on a slew of drug charges as the investigation into his death was underway, but it wasn’t clear if she was considered a suspect in his slaying.

Howard was apparently found by Knox County patrol officers in the 5900 block of Jones Road sometime Wednesday morning, according to Sheriff Tom Spangler. He had been shot at least one time and was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Spangler didn’t specify exactly where Howard was found, but at 11:50 a.m. Knox County officers executed a search warrant at 5904 Jones Road and arrested the resident, 30-year-old Jacklyn Rachelle Steele.

“A search of the residence revealed approximately one ounce of a substance consistent with methamphetamine, 22 grams of a substance that field tested positive for heroin and fentanyl, approximately four ounces of marijuana, two handguns and a drug ledger with prices and drug debts,” court records show.

Steele was charged with the sale and/or delivery of heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine and marijuana, records show. She was also charged with possession of a weapon during the commission of a dangerous felony.

Steele was being held at the Knox County jail as of Thursday night. No bond amount had been set in her case, according to jail records. 

Officials said the drug charges were “unrelated” to the homicide investigation in a press release about Howard’s slaying that was issued Thursday. 

Including Howard’s slaying, there have been at least seven homicides this year in the unincorporated areas of Knox County under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Office. 

Knoxville, on the other hand, has had between 38 and 40 slayings within its city limits this year, depending on how the numbers are compiled. 

According to KPD’s official statistics — which don’t include officer-involved shootings — the number of homicides would be 38. Hard Knox Wire, however, includes officer-involved shootings. Under that criteria, Knoxville’s has had 40 homicides in 2021.

Regardless of which count is used, 2021 is the bloodiest year on record for Knoxville and Knox County, with a combined toll of between 45 and 47 men, women and children slain.

The rise in homicides has also been experienced by many other mid-sized cities across the United States.

Experts across the country have weighed in on the possible causes of the sudden rise in homicides, which reversed nearly two decades of relatively low violent crime rates following the drug-fueled gang wars of the 1990s. Prior to the last two years, for instance, Knoxville’s bloodiest year came in 1998, when 35 people were killed. 

Homicides have been on the rise across the nation since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, and authorities have blamed the spike in violent crime partially on the widespread societal disruption the coronavirus has caused. The pandemic has also been accompanied by a surge in alcohol and drug abuse, which seems to have fueled a rise in both the number of fatal overdoses and the kind of gang warfare that accompanies drug trafficking. 

“KCSO’s Major Crimes Detectives have no reason to believe this was a random act,” said the Sheriff’s Office press release about Howard’s death. “If you have information about this crime, Sheriff Tom Spangler asks you to call 865-215-2243 or email Crimetips@knoxsheriff.org<mailto:Crimetips@knoxsheriff.org.  Tipsters can remain anonymous.”

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at jjstambaugh@hardknoxwire.com.

Published on December 3, 2021.