A 2nd guilty plea, life sentence in lurid 2016 Cobb murder

Victim’s partially burned corpse was found dumped in Paulding County

Howard Sewell arrived at an apartment in Marietta expecting to celebrate his birthday. He had just turned 35 on May 29, 2016, and had made plans to meet someone he thought was a woman from Virginia.

He didn’t know who lived at the Marietta apartment. He had met and solidified plans with the woman over social media.

By the end of the night Sewell would be dead, and a man who two years later would plead guilty to Sewell’s murder would be in the hospital.

That man, Omar Savior, 23, on Tuesday became the second person to be sentenced to life in prison for killing Sewell.

SHOTS FIRED

Police were suspicious when Savior arrived at Kennestone Hospital with a gunshot wound.

Christopher Hanna had driven Savior and Thadeshia Clark, 22, to the hospital that night. At the time, Savior and Clark were living in an apartment rented by Hanna and Abby Hanna. Savior gave the hospital staff a false name, and he and Clark fabricated a story about how he was shot.

But earlier that night, Savior and Clark not only robbed Sewell, but killed him.

Their plan was to lure an unsuspecting victim to the apartment with an ad on Backpage, a classifieds website that was popularly used by sex workers until it was shut down this year in April. Once their victim arrived, they would rob him at gunpoint.

“Miss Clark indicated that on at least one occasion” they had done something similar at a hotel, said Cobb Chief Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans, who prosecuted both Clark and Savior.

Sewell responded to the ad and agreed to come to the apartment. Clark and Savior led him to a back room and tried to rob him. But their plans went awry when Sewell fought back.

As Savior and Sewell struggled, Clark found a gun and fired it. Both Sewell and Savior were struck. Savior then delivered another gunshot to Sewell’s head, killing him.

But investigators didn’t know that at the time. There was no murder investigation at that point. Sewell had not yet even been reported missing. With no reason to charge Savior, investigators let him leave the hospital.

However, they kept the car that Christopher Hanna had been driving that night and searched it. In it, they found a gun.

MISSING PERSON

Sewell lived in Smyrna and worked as a hairdresser at Van Michael Salon in Sandy Springs.

Evans, the chief assistant DA, said Sewell was very close to his family and spoke to them often. So when relatives didn’t hear from him, they became alarmed.

“It was extremely unlike him to not be in contact with them,” Evans said.

Sewell’s family filed a missing person’s report in Cobb County and made social media posts hoping to gather information on his whereabouts. Van Michael Salon pledged a financial reward for anyone who called Crime Stoppers with information that led to an arrest. But after a week, there was still no sign of Sewell.

“They were devastated,” Evans said. “They were desperate to find out what happened to him.”

BODY FOUND

A man was walking his dog near an auto body shop in Paulding County when he made a disturbing discovery: a dead body.

The corpse was dumped behind Gerber Auto Body Shop just off Marietta Highway. It was June 3, and Sewell had been officially missing in Cobb County for two days.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations took the body to the crime lab to identify it. It was in such poor condition it was unrecognizable. It was a man’s body, partially burned and already decomposing, weathered by being exposed to the elements.

On June 6, a GBI agent who had previously worked in Cobb saw news about the search for Sewell.

“The agent with the GBI saw the missing persons report and saw that these were not unrelated events,” Evans said.

An autopsy was performed later that day, and dental records were used to make a conclusive identification.

It was Sewell.

GUILTY PLEAS

Savior was already in Cobb County Jail on simple assault charges when he was charged with the murder of Howard Sewell on June 17, 2016. He and Clark were charged with malice murder and felony murder.

Clark pleaded guilty in April 2017 and was sentenced to life in prison.

And on Tuesday, as jury selection for his trial was underway, Savior shocked many and entered a guilty plea — after which Cobb Superior Court Judge Anna Harris handed down a life sentence.



If convicted by a jury, Savior could have gotten life without parole for malice murder, 20 years to life for armed robbery, and one to 10 years for concealing a death, Evans said.

Savior’s attorney, Grady Moore, cited the “certainty of a plea versus the uncertainty of a trial.” But, in the end, Savior will still spend the rest of his days behind bars.

Cases are pending for three other suspects, including Christopher and Abby Hanna.

Evans said Sewell’s loved ones are thankful his killers were held accountable. But the family is only beginning to heal.

“They were still grieving,” Evans said, “and they probably will be for a long time.”