TN v. Robin Howington : Mother Daughter Murder Trial

Posted at 12:19 PM, April 19, 2024

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Court TV) — A Tennessee mother convicted in the shooting of her 5-year-old daughter was sentenced to 22 years in prison Friday.

In March, Robin Howington was convicted of six charges, including reckless homicide, for the Sept. 2019 death of Destiny Oliver. Court documents obtained by Court TV and testimony at trial detailed how Howington told authorities several different versions of what happened, including blaming an unknown intruder, Oliver’s biological father and lastly claiming her two-year-old son shot his sister by mistake.

robin howington appears in court

Robin Howington appears at her sentencing hearing Friday, April 19, 2024. (Court TV)

At sentencing, the judge said he “quit counting” how many lies Howington told in the aftermath of her daughter’s shooting. She was ordered to serve her sentences for six charges concurrently, equating to 22 years in prison.

While being interviewed by police, Howington admitted to trying to destroy her cellphone in a hospital bathroom “because she was scared about it containing evidence of drug sales.” She also admitted to wiping down and hiding the firearm after the shooting.

In March 2021, Howington’s defense filed a motion to suppress their client’s statement to police, saying her statement was not voluntarily given because she was “horribly distressed.” The motion claimed Howington told officers during her first police interview, less than two hours after the shooting, that she was “nervous” because she had been raped by a police officer. The motion also claimed one officer yelled after her during the interview while another hugged her “without an invitation.” The motion was denied, and Howington’s defense had a heated exchange with one of the detectives during the trial about the interview.

Howington also took the stand in her trial, testifying that her two-year-old son accidentally shot his sister and called it a “tragic accident.” She claimed her actions following the shooting were to protect her son.

The jury deliberated less than two hours before returning their verdict. After the verdict was read, District Attorney Charme Allen said in a statement, “Thanks to the hard work of everyone involved in this case, a small measure of justice was achieved for a little girl whose life was tragically cut short.”


SENTENCING – 4/19/24

  • Judge Scott Green sentenced Robin Howington to 22 years in prison for the shooting death of her daughter Destiny, saying he did not believe Howington’s claim that her 2-year-old son fired the weapon. “I will never believe that. I don’t think you were honest with the jury about that,” Judge Green told a tearful Howington Friday as he issued his sentence. “You are not the victim in this case.”
  • Green said he relied on two “glaringly obvious” enhancement factors Knox County prosecutors cited in their request maximum sentences to run concurrently: Howington’s pattern of criminal behavior in the case (also referred to as “history of criminal conduct”) and her use of a firearm. The judge said Howington made matters worse by trying to hide the firearm while his daughter’s body “was still warm” and get rid of her cell phone. The judge also said it “strains credulity” to believe Howington’s claim that the gun was misplaced in an accessible location because of a confrontation days earlier with Destiny’s father.
  • Assistant District Attorney General Ashley McDermott read an emotional statement from Destiny’s father, Antoine Oliver, asking for the maximum sentence. Oliver was a suspect for a time based partly on Howington’s statements to police and could not attend his daughter’s funeral while the investigation was pending.
    • “They ruined my life while I was trying to process the death of my baby girl,” Oliver said in his statement. “She is a lowlife who cared nothing about Destiny, only herself. Robin is the reason my daughter is dead. I want her to rot in prison.”
  • The judge said he did not give much weight to the mitigating factors argued by Howington’s lawyer. Defense lawyer Michael Whalen stood by Howington’s claim that her 2-year-old son accidentally shot his sister. Whalen said the trauma of the situation and lingering post-traumatic stress from Howington being raped by a law enforcement officer contributed to Howington’s “irrational” decision to try to conceal evidence under the pretext of protecting Gavin.
    • “This was a horrendous family tragedy that wasn’t made any better by this trial and its conclusion. And it’s just as much a tragedy for Ms. Howington,” Whalen said.
  • The judge appeared to show some leniency to Howington by not giving her the maximum penalties on each count. He sentenced her concurrently on 6 counts (2 of which were merged in sentencing), saying Tennessee law required him to disregard prosecutors’ request for consecutive sentences:
    • Count 1 – reckless homicide – 3 years
    • Count 2 – aggravated child neglect — 22 years
    • (Count 3 merged with count 2)
    • Count 4 — false report – 3 years
    • Count 5 – evidence tampering (gun) – 5 years
    • Count 6 – attempted evidence tampering (phone) – 3 years

DAY 5 – 3/8/24

DAY 4 – 3/7/24

DAY 3 – 3/6/24

  • During the cross-examination of Det. Tim Riddle, the jury was briefly excused following a heated exchange with defense attorney Mike Whalen.
  • Kyle Osborne, currently with the U.S. Army crime lab, testified that he found gun residue on shorts and a gray Nike child’s t-shirt, (worn by Howington’s two-year-old son) as well as on a dress worn by Robin Howington.

DAY 2 – 3/5/24

DAY 1 – 3/4/24

  • A jury was seated to hear the case.
  • The prosecution and defense delivered opening statements.
  • The jury heard the 911 call from Robin Howington after her daughter was shot.
    • Howington could be heard telling the dispatcher that her daughter was shot and someone had just walked through the door.
  • Knoxville Police Officer Andrell Cummings testified that he saw Howington on her phone.
    • Cummings described the scene of the shooting as extremely quiet, and said nobody was yelling or screaming.
    • Cummings said that Howington was sitting on her phone and had a “calm demeanor.”