Court case

The trial for a suspect in the 2016 murder of a Woodland man found dead in his home is underway as proceedings began in Cowlitz County Superior Court last week.

Dustin Griffin, 40, is accused of killing Donald Howard, then 62, in a burglary gone wrong at Howard’s home Nov. 22, 2016. Griffin had avoided arrest on a first-degree murder charge for nearly two years, eventually coming into custody Oct. 8, 2018.

Initially, fire personnel were responding to a structure fire at Howard’s residence on Dahlia Street in Woodland in the early morning of the alleged murder. 

According to a probable cause affidavit, fire crews noticed a handheld propane torch near the home’s front door, leading to an immediate suspicion of arson. Upon entry, they discovered Howard’s bound body.

Evidence at the scene indicated to first responders that the scene was that of an arson to cover up Howard’s killing, according to the affidavit. 

Howard was a prominent figure in the community and well-known for collecting gold jewelry, eagle memorabilia, coins and Franklin Mint watches, which they determined was the target of the crime.

It took a year-and-a-half of investigation before a breakthrough in Spring 2018 where they encountered someone with information on Griffin. Eventually, investigators were able to speak with an ex-girlfriend of Griffin, later obtaining a search warrant for Griffin’s residence where they discovered shoes that matched evidence at the crime scene.

The trial began Oct. 15, and according to The Daily News in Longview, the trial is expected to last two weeks.

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