by: Aileen Wingblad
Andrew Howell, 59, was sentenced by Oakland County Circuit Judge Rudy Nichols on Nov. 1 for an incident involving a 7-year-old student last March at Hillside Elementary School.
A Farmington Hills resident with a 25-year history of substitute teaching in the Farmington district, Howell pleaded no contest in September to one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, occurring while Howell was working at the Farmington Hills school.
Prior to sentencing, Assistant Prosecutor Peter Menna read a statement from the victim’s parents, who appeared in court but didn’t speak. In the statement, presented as a letter to Howell, the parents said they “will never forget the look on (their) 7-year-old daughter’s face“ when she told them about the incident.
They felt disbelief at first, they said, adding “How could something like that have happened?”
Their daughter was “upset and embarrassed” by the assault, the parents said, acknowledging how difficult it was for her to come forward. “We’re incredibly proud our daughter came to us. We feel in doing so she saved other children,” they said.
The parents also said they forgive Howell and have prayed for him since the incident.
“We pray you seek help,” they said. “God has greater plans for your life, Mr. Howell,” they said. “We wish you peace and healing.”
Defense attorney Mitch Ribitwer told Nichols that Howell has taken responsibility for the incident.
“He’s truly sorry and remorseful for any pain and suffering his actions caused to the family,” Ribitwer said.
Ribitwer said the incident was out of character for Howell, noting that he received more than a dozen letters from supporters who consider Howell “a very outstanding citizen” involved in a various fundraising and volunteer efforts in the community.
Following the sentencing, Ribitwer said “it’s just a sad situation all around, it really is.”
Ribitwer also said the parents’ allegations that another young victim had come forward — which they referenced in their statement — was investigated by police but there “wasn’t sufficient evidence” for additional charges.
Howell declined comment, as did his mother who had accompanied him to court.
Along with serving probation, Howell was ordered to comply with all requirements of the sex offender registry, pay court costs and fees, submit to mental health treatment and DNA testing, and to have no contact with the victim or her family.
This article was written by Aileen Wingblad and originally published onfreep