Potsdam homicide case postponed


CANTON — A Monday afternoon pretrial conference for the Massena man accused of murdering a SUNY Potsdam student has been adjourned to a new date, yet to be scheduled.

Michael J. Snow, 31, is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault and first-degree criminal use of a firearm, all felonies. He is accused of shooting and killing Elizabeth M. Howell, 21, on College Park Road near the SUNY Potsdam campus on the night of Feb. 18. If convicted of the murder charge, Snow faces up to life in state prison. He is represented by St. Lawrence County Public Defender James M. McGahan.

Monday’s St. Lawrence County Court appearance was for a speedy trial hearing, but the prosecution has yet to announce trial readiness. It was mostly conducted in the judge’s chambers. District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua said a future date hasn’t been scheduled.

“The court has to conduct inquiries, once we announce ready for trial,” he said. “We’re still providing discovery for the defense.” He added that police are still investigating the killing.

During Snow’s April arraignment on the four-count indictment, Mr. Pasqua described Ms. Howell being gunned down as “a random act of violence.” Snow is alleged to have fled the scene after the shooting. He was arrested the next day in an apartment at 250 Main St. in Massena. While executing a search warrant at the apartment, investigators recovered a sawed-off shotgun that Mr. Pasqua previously said is not believed to be connected to Ms. Howell’s murder. He also said investigators have seized the vehicle Snow is believed to have driven on the night Ms. Howell was shot.

State police continue to search for the murder weapon, Mr. Pasqua said. He asks anyone who may have information on the case to contact the Potsdam Police Department, New York State Police or the St. Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office.

During Snow’s arraignment on the indictment, he told Judge Gregory P. Storie that he lives at 50 Park Ave. in Massena. He inherited the house from his mother, Paula N. Snow, after she died there on April 1, 2019. A friend of Michael Snow’s, 30-year-old Raymond G. Lancto III, also died at 50 Park Ave., on Oct. 8. His death was ruled an accidental drug overdose.

During the first days of May, a state police underwater recovery team and violent crime investigation teams conducted open-water searches in both St. Lawrence and Franklin counties for evidence related to the February homicide. The locations searched were along the route Snow is believed to have driven after the murder — from Potsdam east to Malone, north to Fort Covington and then west to Massena. That included the west branch of the St. Regis River near where it crosses beneath a bridge on Route 11B.

Witnesses at the scene of Ms. Howell’s murder on College Park Road near SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music told police they heard three shots fired from a gray four-door sedan, and they directed responding officers to the victim, who had fled a short distance on foot.

Ms. Howell was found unconscious at 5:51 p.m. that day, and responding officers initiated lifesaving measures. She was taken to Canton-Potsdam Hospital, where she died just before 7 p.m., officials said. Mr. Pasqua has said on earlier occasions that Snow had no connection to Ms. Howell prior to the shooting.

Ms. Howell was studying music education at the Crane School of Music. Crane musicians played a symphony performance on Feb. 23 to an audience of about 200 in memory of Ms. Howell, and a memorial space was set up in the gallery of the Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall.

Her parents, Joe and Ann Howell, spoke about their daughter’s murder with The New York Post in February at the family’s home in Patterson, Putnam County, about 60 miles north of New York City. They said she was likely “a random victim in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The couple described Elizabeth, called Beth by family and friends, as “a talented musician, a dear friend an all-around great person.” She was a cellist who performed with the Crane Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Howell said his daughter was “always willing to help you out.”

“She was the type of person that didn’t have enemies, and certainly no one that would want to kill her,” her father told The Post. “As soon as they told us, we figured wrong place, wrong time.”

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