A former Pike County man faces life in prison after being found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his wife two decades ago. Douglas Howery Sr., 60, was convicted Thursday by a jury in Audrain County, where the trial had been moved on a change of venue. Betty Ann Howery of St. Charles was 44 years old when she disappeared on Feb. 20, 1992. The investigation resumed after authorities found Betty Ann Howery’s bones on the couple’s Annada farm several years ago. Howery was living at the time in Springfield. He was arrested in May 2009. The trial was delayed several times. He displayed little emotion as the verdict was read. Sentencing is set for 11 a.m. Feb. 4 in Mexico. Murder of Betty Howery Douglas Howery was charged on May 7, 2009 with murder in the first degree for the death of his wife, Betty. On Feb. 20, 1992, Howery picked his wife up from her job with ABB in St. Louis and proceeded to go to Community Title Company where they signed paperwork on some real estate. Prior to Howery picking up his wife, he performed several tasks with his girlfriend who was two months pregnant. He took his girlfriend, Betty’s place of employment to get her car. Howery had his girlfriend drive the car to her house. After Howery and his wife completed their business at the Title Company, the defendant took Betty to their property south of Annada. An argument over money ensued and the defendant was confronted about his girlfriend. Howery stated Betty wanted to be left at the property so he left her there with no vehicle. Betty was never seen again. When Betty did not make an appearance that weekend for her father’s 80th birthday party, family members became concerned. Matthew Higginbotham, Betty’s son, went to the St. Charles Police Department and filed a missing persons report. Law enforcement contacted Howery and, after gaining statements from him, went to the property in Pike County to look for signs of Betty but found none, nor any sign of a struggle. After a few days, the St. Charles police turned the matter over to the Pike County Sheriff’s Department since that was the last place Betty had been known to be. The department initiated another search of the property, including an aerial search and search of the river for signs of Betty. Again the search resulted in no discovery of Betty or her body. Between 1992 to 1998, Matthew Higginbotham continued to contact law enforcement periodically checking to see if there was any new evidence of his mother’s whereabouts. During that period of time she had never contacted any family members or her place of employment. In 1998 the Pike County Sheriff’s Department and Missouri Highway Patrol again looked into the disappearance. For the first time a detective talked to Howery’s business partner, Melvin Kinnard. He remembered telling Howery before the disappearance that he needed to make a decision between Betty and the girlfriend since Betty had started calling him. Kinnard said he told Howery that he wasn’t going to cover for him any longer. Kinnard told Highway Patrol detectives on the day after the real estate closing at Community Title, Howery Sr., told Kinnard he would not need to worry as Betty would not bother him anymore. As a result of that information, the Pike County Sheriff’s Department and Prosecuting Attorney, Mark S. Fisher, sought a search warrant to examine the property again. On this occasion the search included the use of cadaver dogs which are trained to try to locate human remains. Again the search resulted in no new discoveries. From 1998 to 2008 the family would periodically call asking if there were any new leads or any new evidence. In between that time, Howery obtained a divorce from Betty even though she was no where to be found. In the divorce he received full ownership of the property in Annada. Prior to 2008, that property was sold. In October of 2008 a new owner of the property was having some work done, clearing brush, removing old buildings and some old concrete. In the course of that work being done, the equipment operator hit a concrete tank that was buried below the ground. The decision was made to remove the tank and in doing so the tank broke apart. The equipment operator noticed that some of the teeth off of the bucket of his high-lift were missing. He asked his helper to search in the contents of the septic tank to find the tooth that came off of the high-lift bucket. When the helper was searching for the tooth, he found bones he believed to be human. The workers stopped and contacted the Pike County Sheriff’s Department. The area was secured by deputies and the Highway Patrol and the FBI were notified. The FBI Evidence Response Team searched through the contents of the septic tank and recovered numerous bones, a pendant and what appeared to be a small derringer. The skeletal remains were sent to various laboratories for identification purposes. Matthew Higginbotham, the son of Betty Howery was contacted and provided a DNA sample for purposes of DNA testing. Analysis confirmed the remains were those of Betty Howery. An exam by Dr. Mary Case, Medical Examiner for St. Louis County, established multiple fractures to the skull of Betty. Dr. Case indicated that these injuries could be consistent with a gun shot or multiple blows to the head and could have been fatal. Due to only skeletal remains being recovered, Dr. Case was unable to provide an exact cause of death, but stated the manner of death was homicidal violence. On May 7, 2009, Mark S. Fisher, Prosecuting Attorney, charged Howery with murder in the first degree for the death of his wife. A preliminary hearing was held before the Honorable Judge David H. Ash on July 28, 2009. The case was bound over for trial. Upon a request of the defense for a change of venue the case was ultimately transfered to Audrain County. In January of 2010 the case was set for trial in July. Prior to the trial date, the defendant’s attorney, Frank Anzalone died. New counsel had to be appointed. The public defender’s office was appointed to represent the defendant, and the trial was finally scheduled to begin Nov. 26, 2012. The case was submitted to the jury at approximately 10:15 a.m. on Nov. 29. The jury returned a verdict about five hours later the same day. Howery showed little emotion as the verdict of murder in the first degree was read. The court granted the defense attorney until Feb. 4, 2013 to grant motions for a new trial. This is a standard procedure in jury trials. If a new trial is not granted, then sentencing will also take place on Feb. 4, 2013 at 11 a.m., in the Circuit Court of Audrain County. The Judge officiating for the trial was the Honorable Keith Sutherland, Judge of the 12th Circuit Court. The State was represented by Mark S. Fisher Prosecuting Attorney of Pike County and the defendant was represented by Thomas Crocco and Brittney Smith, with the Public Defender’s Office. “I hope that the conclusion of this trial gives the family of Betty Howery a sense of closure and justice,” Fisher remarked. He also recognized law enforcement and the witnesses involved for their dedication and cooperation in this case. He also thanked his office staff for the hard work they put in the case singling out investigator Kenda Flynn, who spent numerous hours coordinating over 30 witnesses who testified for the state in the case, along with organizing and preparing the more than 100 exhibits that were utilized.