03/16/10 — Man suspected in pair of murders at city motel

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Man suspected in pair of murders at city motel

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on March 16, 2010 1:46 PM

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James Carnell Howard, 28, is escorted out of the Goldsboro Police Department early today by officers Dwayne Dean, front, and D. Bevell after being charged with the murders of Suryakant and Bhavanaben Patel, who were found shot to death in their motel room at America's Best Value Inn off U.S. 70 in mid- December.

Goldsboro police arrested a suspect this morning in the December double murder of a couple who lived and worked at America's Best Value Inn off U.S. 70 Bypass East.

James Carnell Howard, 28, is already being held at Neuse Correctional Institute for a Feb. 10 driving while impaired charge.

He now faces two open counts of murder, as well as robbery with a dangerous weapon and two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon.

Suryakant and Bhavanaben Patel were found shot to death in their motel room after they failed to report to work on Dec. 14, 2009.

As police interviewed staff members who knew the couple since they immigrated from India and got jobs at the motel in 2007, they said investigation revealed a kind couple who were well-liked by co-workers and neighbors.

Rupel Patel, the niece of Bhavanaben Patel, 61, said the couple had moved to the United States to be closer to family.

Both she and Vinal Patel, the couple's son, wondered in an earlier telephone interview why someone would murder a couple who led such simple lives, dutifully reporting every day to their jobs as housekeepers.

Police now say the motive was robbery, but police spokesman Sgt. Chad Calloway said he could not get into details about the case because it could jeopardize court proceedings if the information became public.

However, he wanted to praise both his investigators, the lead investigator Dwayne Dean, and the State Bureau of Investigation.

"It was really such an excellent case, the investigators working this case, I wish I could into it with you, because it's such an excellent case," Calloway said. "But the people working this case have just done a fantastic job."

The investigation has been an arduous one, the police spokesman said.

"It was a long time, and we had a lot of work to do, so there's a mountain of information that would explain that question (how Howard came to be suspected of the murders)," Calloway said. "Needless to say, the biggest deal is that we can give the family some form of closure."