Local News

Former Wake Tech president charged with child abuse

Posted November 22, 2010 1:25 p.m. EST
Updated November 22, 2010 7:25 p.m. EST

— Police on Sunday charged the retired president of Wake Technical Community College with child abuse, saying he endangered the safety of his three grandchildren.

Bruce Inman Howell, 68, of 1105 Queensferry Road in Cary, was charged with three counts of misdemeanor child abuse and one count of injury to personal property. He was released on a $5,000 bond.

Cary police said Howell placed a nail behind the tire of a car in which his three granddaughters, ages 9, 7 and 3, were riding. The car belonged to the children's maternal grandfather, Leonard Avery, police said.

Howell served as president of Wake Tech from 1980 to 2003, and his successor said Monday that he's stunned by the charges, calling Howell a "man of integrity."

"I know that he loves his grandchildren. I know that he would never do anything to endanger his grandchildren," Wake Tech President Steven Scott said.

Cary police said investigators stand by the charges.

"We're confident in the facts that they absolutely support the charge," Lt. Steve Fonke said. "We deal with a lot of custody disputes – a lot of domestic situations – and they are very emotionally charged."

Howell's son, Bruce Howell Jr., is involved in a heated custody battle with his ex-wife, Kristin Howell. The couple divorced in June, and Bruce Howell Jr. moved out of their Holly Springs home into his parents' home.

Both sets of grandparents have filed motions to allow them to maintain visitation rights with the three children, and the hearing for Bruce Howell Sr. and his wife is scheduled for Nov. 29.

"Our client has every confidence in his father, Bruce Howell Sr., and we are certain these unfortunate allegations against Mr. Howell will be proven false," Kelly Thompson, an attorney for Bruce Howell Jr., said in a statement. "In this case, there have been numerous allegations made, and the children’s interests would best be served by a comprehensive custody evaluation that examines both parties and both sets of grandparents."

Avery's wife, Cindy Avery, declined to comment Monday.

Mable Howell, Bruce Howell Sr.'s wife, also declined to comment, except to say the charges against her husband are false.