POTSDAM — State police divers have returned to where Michael J. Snow may have ditched the gun he’s accused of using to murder Elizabeth M. Howell.
St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua said the latest search started Monday. On Monday and Tuesday, scuba divers were scouring the west branch of the St. Regis River for evidence. Police have some canopies set up on a private lot by the riverside and appear to have equipment there that could be used to sift through materials brought up from the river bed.
State police public information officer Beau T. Duffy said an underwater recovery team and violent crime investigation teams will be conducting open-water searches this week in both St. Lawrence and Franklin counties for evidence related to the February homicide. The location being searched Tuesday on the St. Regis River is along the route Snow is believed to have driven after allegedly committing the murder, from Potsdam east to Malone, north to Fort Covington and then west to Massena.
Snow, 31, of Massena, has been indicted on four felonies stemming from his alleged Feb. 18 killing of Ms. Howell, a 21-year-old SUNY Potsdam student, in what Mr. Pasqua has called “a random act of violence.” Snow is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault and first-degree criminal use of a firearm. If convicted of murder, Snow faces up to a life sentence in state prison. He is represented by the St. Lawrence County Public Defender’s Office and is being held in the county jail in Canton without bail.
Snow was arrested on Feb. 19 in a police raid of his 250 Main St. apartment in Massena. During Snow’s arraignment, Mr. Pasqua told St. Lawrence County Judge Gregory P. Storie that investigators recovered a sawed-off shotgun while executing a search warrant at Snow’s apartment. That weapon is not believed to be tied to the murder. The DA also said that investigators are in possession of the vehicle Snow is believed to have been driving on the night of the murder.
Although Snow was arrested at the Main Street apartment, during his arraignment he told Judge Storie that he lives at 50 Park Ave. in Massena. He inherited the 50 Park Ave. house from his mother, Paula N. Snow, after she died there on April 1, 2019. A friend of Snow’s, 30-year-old Raymond G. Lancto III, also died in the 50 Park Ave. house, from a drug overdose on Oct. 8, 2020.
Witnesses at the scene of Ms. Howell’s murder on College Park Road near the SUNY Potsdam campus 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 then taken to Canton-Potsdam Hospital, where she died just before 7 p.m., officials said. Mr. Pasqua has said on at least two 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.”