Police: Man held family of 5 hostage for 3 months

Larry Gene Howard, Polk County Jail booking photo

DAVENPORT, FL (WFLA) — A man who authorities describe as a “prolific offender” is back behind bars accused in a bizarre and terrifying crime; police say he held a Davenport man and four children hostage in their own home for three months and stole the man’s disability payments and food stamps.

Larry Gene Howard faces many charges including five counts of armed false imprisonment and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

On May 6, Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a home in Davenport. A man who lives at the home told deputies that he and his four nieces and nephews, ages 6, 7, 11, and 13, had been held against their will.

He told deputies that approximately three months ago, a distant relative, along with a man identified as “Little Man” came to his home to visit. Two days later, “Little Man,” who was later identified as Larry Gene Howard, came back to the house with his four children and told the victim they were homeless and needed a place to stay. The victim told him he didn’t have enough room and asked him to leave.

That’s when the victim said Howard walked to his vehicle, retrieved a shotgun, and then pointed the gun at the victim and said he was going to “lay down the rules.” Howard then allegedly told the victim he and his four children would stay at the house.

The victim told deputies he was in fear of his life so he didn’t argue with Howard.

The victim told detectives that Howard let the victim’s two nieces go to school and were told if they told anyone, he would kill their uncles and brothers. The victim told investigators that the two brothers were not allowed to leave the house.

Howard’s girlfriend, Hannah Wright, then moved into the house.

The victim told deputies he was only allowed to leave the house once in three months.

Polk County Sheriff’s Office investigators say that DCF and law enforcement had responded to the house on April 14 looking for Howard and his four children.  The suspect told the victim to refuse to cooperate and hid in a “crawl space” while they were there.

DCF took the Howard’s four children into custody.

During the 3-month period in which he was held hostage, the victim says Howard brandished numerous guns and swords and made verbal threats to the victims and his nieces and nephews. Howard even allegedly stole the victim’s cell phone so he couldn’t call law enforcement.

The victim told investigators that on May 6, Howard held a shotgun to his head and told him he was going to die. Soon after, the victim grabbed his nieces and nephews and went to his neighbor’s home and contacted law enforcement.

Deputies responded and set-up a perimeter around the house.  Howard’s girlfriend, Hannah Wright, walked out while the Howard hid in the crawl space armed with a weapon.

An hour and a half later, a K-9 found Howard in a crawl space under the house.

Both the victim and the Howard’s girlfriend, Hannah Wright, said they had seen Howard with the gun on May 6th and in possession of other firearms over the past three months.

Detectives say Howard has four prior felony convictions and is a suspect in several other crimes that have occurred in the area, including a nearby home invasion in which he was armed with a shotgun. Howard denied involvement in that crime.

He was arrested and charged with five counts of Armed False Imprisonment, Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon without the Intent to Kill, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, Grand Theft (Motor Vehicle) and Resisting a Law Enforcement Officer without violence.

After Howard was taken into custody, investigators say they discovered the shotgun that Howard  allegedly pointed the victim’s head. Detectives say the serial number had been filed off and the barrel had been intentionally shortened.  Howard was also charged with Possession of a Shortened Shotgun and Possession of a Firearm with an Altered Serial Number.

Detectives continued to investigate and say Howard stole the victim’s monthly disability payment of $718 and his food stamps.

During the three-month imprisonment detectives say Howard learned of the victim’s sexual orientation.  The victim claimed Howard had continually used homosexual slurs and derogatory language when talking to the victim.  The victim also said Howard hit him and used the homosexual slurs at the time of the battery. Howard is also being charged with Battery (Hate Crime.)

Detectives say Howard also cut a large hole in the floor of the house so he could hide from law enforcement.  He is being charged with one count of Criminal Mischief (over $1,000) for this crime.

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