Police: 2 charged in February murder of ship worker

Dustin Howell of North Carolina killed after meeting man at hotel, police say

Branden Bailey and Desi Hall are charged in a February murder, police say.
Branden Bailey and Desi Hall are charged in a February murder, police say.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two men have been charged with murder in the Feb. 17 killing of 38-year-old Dustin Howell, who was found dead at West Moncrief Road and Owen Avenue.

Branden Bailey, 26, surrendered to Jacksonville SWAT officers Wednesday after a two-hour standoff at a mobile home park on New Kings Road. Desi Hall was arrested June 8.

Both men are charged with first-degree murder, said Lt. Steve Gallaher with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Gallaher said Howell was shot several times and appeared to be the victim of an armed robbery.

Gallaher said Howell was in town from North Carolina doing maintenance on ships and had been staying at a Southbank hotel. Surveillance from the hotel shows Howell leaving with Bailey on the night of the murder.

Gallaher said Bailey, who was staying in a room rented by his girlfriend, returned to the hotel about 3 a.m. without Howell. The girlfriend told police Bailey had used her car that night but she didn't know where he went.

Detectives were able to use the car's GPS tracking system to follow Bailey's trail, which went from the hotel to a home on Edgewood Avenue West, then to the murder scene on Owen Avenue, then back to the Edgewood Avenue house before returning to the hotel.

Detectives learned the Edgewood Avenue home belonged to Hall's mother. Officers executed a search warrant at the home and found evidence linking Hall and Bailey to the crime, Gallaher said.

They also found surveillance video at the home, showing the two arming themselves during the first trip to the house the night of the murder. It also showed them returning to the home after the time of the murder, which matched the GPS track, Gallaher said.

Bailey's standoff at the New Kings Road Mobile Home Park near Dunn Avenue began about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, police said. It ended about 5:30 p.m. when Bailey surrendered to SWAT officers and was taken into custody, police said.

WATCH: Viewer video of SWAT standoff

Gallaher said that after he was arrested Bailey admitted to meeting Howell the night of the murder and spending time with him, but would not say much else.

A woman was inside the mobile home with Bailey during the standoff Wednesday. No one was injured.