Dawn Register has never given up finding out who killed her mother nearly two decades ago.
“I want justice for her,” Register said Friday, the day after making 19 years since her mother was found dead in Hamilton Township.
“I don’t believe my mother’s soul has been at peace yet,” she said. “And she deserves peace. She would have wanted justice. I have every intention of trying to get that for her.”
Michelle Lynn Howard was 32 when her body was found on the side of a road in Hamilton Township. She was naked except for a white bra.
An autopsy determined she died of asphyxia associated with aspiration of gastric contents, which is when the contents of the stomach enter the airways.
She also had multiple blunt-force injuries to her head, neck and torso, the autopsy found.
“I was so confused,” Register said. “I don’t get it. What did she do for something like this to happen?”
The then-teen had to identify her mother’s body. She had to pick out what her mother would wear when she was laid to rest and had to pick out her casket.
“I was 19 years old, so it was very overwhelming and painful,” Register said.
For a long time, she says she was numb about her mother’s death. As her mother’s only child, she had no one to turn to.
“Myself and my grandmother locked ourselves in the house for two weeks with the curtains closed and the television off. No communication,” she said.
Now, Register is pushing for answers.
She has been in constant contact with members of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, which put out a release on the case Friday.
“It was my idea,” Register said of the prosecutor’s news release. “I had already got a flyer made for her and they said I had to have something different with more information so they put the article together.”
Register also did an interview with Dateline NBC that she hopes will shine more light on her mother’s case.
No case is considered cold, the prosecutor said in his news release, saying he hoped that his office would be able to give Howard’s family “the closure they deserve.”
Howard’s body was found on Estelle Avenue, exactly a quarter-mile north of Old Landis Avenue or four-tenths of a mile south of Route 40
“Even though Ms. Howard lost her life 19 years ago, I am hopeful that there is someone out there who saw something or knows something that can assist us with solving this homicide,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said. “Time is always the great equalizer, and circumstances sometimes change that lead people to come forward now that prevented them from doing so at the time of the incident.”
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office at 609-909-7800 or go to the Prosecutor’s Office Web site at http://www.acpo.org/tips.html and provide information by filling out the form anonymously on the Submit a Tip page.
Information can also be called in anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 609-652-1234 or visit the Crime Stoppers Website at http://www.crimestoppersatlantic.com/. Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and indictment of those who commit crimes in Atlantic County.