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Notorious double child killer Howard Steven Ault will be executed over infamous 1996 sex killings of two young sisters aged 7 and 11, which saw him rape oldest victim in front of her younger sibling then strangle both


A notorious double child killer is set to be executed over the infamous 1996 murders of two young sisters after a jury condemned him to death row for the third time. 

Howard Steven Ault, 57, was initially sentenced to death in 2000, but several legal challenges and changes to Florida‘s death row process have meant two further juries have weighed in, culminating in a 9-3 vote this week to execute him. 

He shocked the nation almost 30 years ago when he lured DeAnn Emerald Mu’min, 11, and her younger sister, Alicia Sybilla Jones, 7, to his home with the promise of Halloween candy. 

After abducting the girls, he raped Mu’min in front of her younger sister before strangling them both and stashing them in his attic. 

Convicted double child killer Howard Steven Ault, 57, was sentenced to death for the third time this week

Convicted double child killer Howard Steven Ault, 57, was sentenced to death for the third time this week 

DeAnn Emerald Mu'min

Alicia Sybilla Jones

Ault shocked the nation in 1996 when he lured sisters DeAnn Emerald Mu’min, 11, (left) and her younger sister Alicia Sybilla Jones, 7, (right) to his home, before raping DeAnn and murdering them both 

Jurors deliberated for two days before voting 9-3 to sentence Ault to death again, with his fate decided by the non-unanimous ruling thanks to a new law introduced by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

The governor signed a bill in April allowing the death penalty in his state to be approved with a jury vote as low as 8-4. 

Ault has been imprisoned since his arrest shortly after the murders, but has been on-and-off death row several times despite his heinous crime. 

Three years after his initial conviction in 2000, the Florida Supreme Court ordered Ault to undergo a retrial over concerns about the jury selection in his trial.

He was then resentenced in 2007 for the murders of the young girls in a 9-3 vote, and he sat on death row for over a decade until another Florida Supreme Court ruling in 2017. 

The court found Florida’s death penalty process was unconstitutional as it did not require jurors to make a unanimous decision. 

With Ault waiting for yet another sentencing hearing, the case was complicated by the 2018 Parkland school shooting, as the gunman who killed 17 was spared the death penalty as the jury only voted 12-9 for death.

Amid outrage over the jury’s vote, DeSantis pushed for lowering the threshold, ultimately leading to Ault’s third death sentence this week. 

According to a New York Times article from after his arrest in 1996, Ault was known as a longtime sex offender in the state of Florida who was on house arrest for an unrelated sex crime involving another child at the time of the sisters’ murders. 

He quickly confessed to the killings, and led investigators to their bodies in the attic of his building.

Ault had befriended the sisters' mother shortly before their murders, and lured them to his home with Halloween candy

Ault had befriended the sisters’ mother shortly before their murders, and lured them to his home with Halloween candy 

The killer was a known sex offender in the area. After his confession, he led investigators to the sisters' bodies in the attic of his south Florida home (pictured)

The killer was a known sex offender in the area. After his confession, he led investigators to the sisters’ bodies in the attic of his south Florida home (pictured) 

Ault (pictured at his first trial) had a shocking criminal history that dated back to 1986 including previous attacks on children

Ault (pictured at his first trial) had a shocking criminal history that dated back to 1986 including previous attacks on children 

Ault seen in an earlier mugshot

The killer has been subjected to three death sentences

Following his arrest, the crime sparked outrage as it became clear that Ault (seen in previous mugshots) had an extensive criminal history against children but was still able to come into contact with the young sisters 

Police found that he had befriended the sisters and their mother shortly before the killings, and although he was on house arrest, Ault was not monitored electronically and was only subject to visitations from his probation officer. 

His arrest sparked outrage as many questioned why a convicted child predator was able to have contact with the young girls, with Ault owning a 10-year criminal record at the time. 

In 1986, he was charged in connection with a violent attack on a couple on a beach, for which he was handed three years’ probation. 

Within two years, he pleaded guilty to attempted burglary and the attempted sexual battery of a 12-year-old girl, which landed him a seven year prison sentence.

However, Ault was released after just three years and nine months due to prison overcrowding. 

Then in 1994, he pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and sexual activity with a six-year-old child who lived in his neighborhood – which he was sentenced to house arrest for. 

He was also accused on New Years Eve in 1995 of attempting to rape an 11-year-old neighbor, but was never arrested over the alleged crime. 

Following the murders of DeAnn (pictured) and Alicia, outraged mourners at their funeral called for Ault to 'never see the light of day again'

Following the murders of DeAnn (pictured) and Alicia, outraged mourners at their funeral called for Ault to ‘never see the light of day again’ 

At the funeral for the sisters he murdered, fury over the system that allowed him to reoffend was palpable.

One attendee, Laura Mucilli, 60, who didn’t know the girls but wanted to support their funeral, said at the time: ‘We need to start something where one time they hurt a baby, they never see the light of day.

‘We are the people. We make the laws. One time, and never see the light of day again. That’s all that has to happen.’

Tederin Lane, 41, a cousin of the sisters’ mother, added: ‘They ought to put a tattoo on these murderers so the kids can know what they’re running into.’ 

Now, although a jury voted to sentence him to death for the third time, he will still be subject to formal sentencing by a judge. 

He is scheduled for a status hearing on April 11.  



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