April Hinderer vows to devote energy to help domestic violence victims

The ex-husband of a Beaverton woman who was beaten with a hammer in the presence of her three children and boyfriend pleaded guilty on Oct. 31 to two counts of aggravated attempted murder in the incident.

Washington County Circuit Judge Rick Knapp on Nov. 4 sentenced Philip Bernard Howells, 31, to 16 years and eight months with the Oregon Department of Corrections for trying to kill April Hinderer, 29, and Raul Delgado at Hinderer’s Beaverton apartment on Oct. 6, 2012. Howells broke into the apartment early that morning, assaulted his then-wife with a hammer and box cutter. He also attacked Delgado, who is now Hinderer’s husband, in the process awaking the children Howells intended to take with him.HOWELLS

After the rampage, Howells fled for Idaho without the children and was apprehended a few weeks later. On the third day of trial, he pleaded guilty to the two aggravated attempted murder counts as well as one count of aggravated burglary.

Bracken McKey, Washington County’s senior deputy district attorney, said Howells did not testify in the case. Chris Colburn, his court-appointed attorney, made no opening statement nor presented any defense evidence when Howells entered his guilty pleas.

Reached by phone at his Hillsboro public defender’s office, Colburn declined to comment on the case, confirming his client had begun his sentence at the Coffee Creek Correctional Center in North Wilsonville. He will eventually be transferred to the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem to serve out his sentence.

On Tuesday, Nov. 12, McKey related testimony from Sarah Miller, Howells’ girlfriend at the time of the attack, who came forward just before the trial, expressing her willingness to testify. Miller accompanied Howells when he purchased a mallet that Miller indicated he intended to use on Hinderer and remove the three children from the apartment.

“It was pretty clear to me that Howells’ intent was to kill April and her boyfriend,” McKey said. “You don’t kick in your (estranged) wife’s door at 2 in the morning, steal the kids and move back to Salem and that be the end of it. The only way this was going to work was to get the mom completely out of the picture.”

The brief trial was punctuated by photos of the blood-spattered apartment, including shots of the reddened pillows where Hinderer and Delgado were sleeping when Howells kicked in the door. The children slept in bunk beds in a nearby bedroom.

McKey said Miller explained in detail how her complacency in Howells’ planned rampage turned to revulsion when he returned to the van from Hinderer’s apartment. Ensconced in the vehicle, Miller was unable to hear the screams from the residence.

“He told her there had been an altercation,” McKey said of Miller. “She said (Howells) told her, ‘I just hit her in the head with a hammer over and over again, but she wouldn’t die.’ (Howells’ admission) made her sick to her stomach. She didn’t let him touch her the rest of the night.”

Hinderer, who shared her ordeal with Beaverton Police Department investigators and the news media last fall, spoke extensively at Howells’ sentencing last week.

“You tried to kill me, and failed,” she said, directing her comments to Howells, her husband for nearly seven years, in the courtroom. “You are not a man. You are a coward and a failed murderer. You came in the darkness to my home and attacked us in our sleep. You cut open our heads and my chest and laughed as we tried to fight back. You severely damaged many families ... including your own.

“You took the innocence of three small children,” she continued. “They do not look for monsters under their beds at night, they look for murderers. There are times that I see them cry. They have been hurt so badly. They refer to that night as ‘When Philip killed me ... but God did not let me die.’”

Thanking neighbors, police officers and medical personnel who came to her and Delgado’s rescue, Hinderer shared with the courtroom her intention to use the experience and Howells’ conviction as a platform to speak out against domestic violence.

“My story is a survivor story, not a victim story,” she said. “It is now my largest goal to institute and establish a home and school for domestic violence survivors ... I have not survived for nothing. When I took that mental step back away from death in the ambulance, I knew that decision came with a greater purpose, an opportunity to share my victory with those who are still fighting and may feel that they are losing their struggle.

“I am going to live not as a victim,” she added, “but as a survivor.”

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