The following news release was sent by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office:

EL MIRAGE - County Attorney Andrew Thomas announced today that Glendale resident Howard Frances Underwood, 27 (DOB 9/10/81), has been sentenced to three natural life terms in prison for the murders of three individuals in 2003. Underwood was sentenced on November 14, 2008, in the courtroom of Judge Roland J. Steinle. He pled guilty to three counts of First Degree Murder, class one dangerous felonies, and three counts of Robbery, class four dangerous felonies, on July 21, 2008.

According to an El Mirage Police probable cause statement, on September 9, 2003, officers responded to 11790 W. Columbine following a 911 call. When they arrived on the scene, police discovered three naked men with their throats cut. Autopsies of the three men revealed they died from blunt force trauma and sharp force injuries. An investigation led to Underwood. Warrants obtained to search two properties belonging to the defendant turned up evidence to tie him to the murders. A witness also identified Underwood in a photo line-up just a block from where the bodies were found. His palm print was also located on the victim's vehicle. One witness stated that on the tenth day after the murders, Underwood sold him a gun for $200.00. The gun belonged to one of the victims.

Underwood was taken into custody by the Philadelphia Police Department and he was extradited to Arizona. When questioned by police, Underwood denied participation but claimed he had been present a week earlier when a drug deal was negotiated with two of the older victims.

"The violence associated with drugs and the drug trade is made obvious by the details of this case," said Thomas. "This office recognizes the good work of the police investigators, and the efforts of our prosecutors are to be commended as well. Justice has been served."


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