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Man who killed his mom with a machete gets 34 years in prison

One of the most horrific murder cases in Otter Tail County history has come to a close with the sentencing of James Howard, 48, of Dalton - the man who killed his mother with a machete. He was sentenced last week to 34 years in prison.

The sentence exceeds state guidelines because of, in the words of prosecutors, "aggravating factors."

According to court administration records in Fergus Falls, Howard told authorities that he wanted to put his mother out of her misery; Barbara Howard, 68, suffered from various illnesses.

The attack on Barbara took place April 23, 2011. She died the following month.

Mother and son shared the same residence in Dalton.

James Howard, who previously pled guilty to second-degree murder, could have his sentence reduced to 23 years. Court records show that he has recently undergone mental evaluations. Under a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped a first-degree murder charge.

In early September, Judge Mark Hansen ruled that Howard was competent to stand trial. The case then proceeded to a grand jury.

In addition to the jail sentence, Howard will pay restitution to his family of $45,500.