Oxygen Insider Exclusive!

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up for Free to View
Crime News Breaking News

Missouri Man Charged With 2004 Murder Of Woman Whose Torso Was Found At Rest Area

Mike Clardy is now charged with the murder of Deanna Howland, whose unidentified torso was found by a Missouri rest area maintenance worker nearly 20 years ago.

By Jax Miller
5 Infamous Cold Cases of Murder

Police say DNA helped identify a suspect in the brutal 2004 murder of a woman whose torso was found at a Missouri rest area.

Mike Anthony Clardy, 63, was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder and abandonment of a corpse for the 2004 murder of Illinois resident Deanna Denise Howland, 35, according to NBC St. Louis affiliate KSDK. Clardy was allegedly linked to murder by DNA found on Howland’s body and a knife found in a sewer near the crime scene.

Clardy, of Maryland Heights, Missouri, has allegedly confessed to killing Howland and is being held on $1 million bail, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

A maintenance worker found a woman’s “headless, handless and legless” torso while trimming brush at a rest area located on the westbound side of Interstate 70 in Wright City, Missouri — about 50 miles west of St. Louis — on June 28, 2004, according to the Warren County Sheriff’s Department.

A police handout of victim Deanna Howland

The remains were found at the bottom of a slight hill near a picnic table, away from passing travelers.

A black bra was still on the torso, and scarring indicated that the woman had previously underwent an appendectomy and cesarean section, according to a 2016 article by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. At the time, investigators believed the unknown woman had been dead for hours.

The rest of her remains were never recovered, and her identity remained unknown until 2016.

RELATED: New Details On Human Foot Found In Yellowstone Geyser That's Been Linked To Missing 70-Year-Old Los Angeles Man

In 2014, Warren County’s Lt. Matt Schmutz had reopened the cold case and began looking into missing persons cases that could have matched the criteria of the unidentified woman’s torso.

But it took Howland’s brother — former Edwardsville, Illinois police officer Brian Barker — being charged with a string of crimes in 2014 and 2015 ranging from burglary to arson to connect the torso to Howland, per the Post-Dispatch.

“Because of talking to him, we learned he had a missing sister,” Madison County Sheriff’s Department Maj. Jeff Connor said at the time. 

“In early 2015, Schmutz began communicating with a Madison County Illinois Sheriff’s detective on a possible missing person case from Illinois,” according to Warren County officials. “The person was last seen in the spring of 2004 and was estranged from her family and friends.”

Authorities and her daughter told the Post-Dispatch that Howland had been a sex worker who’d struggled with drug addiction and lived a “very transient” lifestyle before her death, which was why she had never been reported missing.

RELATED: Body Found In New Hampshire In 1971 Identified By DNA As Missing Massachusetts Woman

In March 2016, DNA testing by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Lab concluded Deanna Howland was the woman whose torso was found in Wright City, which is about 55 miles west of her hometown of Alton, Illinois.

The victim was a mother of four, according to the St. Louis outlet.

Investigators said Thursday that, in his alleged confession, Clardy told them he met Howland on June 26, 2004 through her sex work, and denied that he'd had any previous contact with her. He allegedly admitted to killing and dismembering her at his then-resident in St. Ann — about 30 miles east of Wright City — following a disagreement and then scattering her remains around St. Louis and Warren Counties.

Local Wright City residents recalled how the “horrifying” murder affected the community, with many assuming the killer was from out of town because the remains were found at a rest area, according to Fox St. Louis affiliate KTVI.

“Good on them for finally catching whoever did it,” resident Brian Stewart told the station.

Jail records reviewed by Oxygen.com show Clardy is being held at the Warren County Jail in Warrenton, Missouri.