- Associated Press - Friday, January 9, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) - The death penalty is a possibility for a man who made his first court appearance Friday in what the Clark County District Attorney called the random rape and brutal stabbing death of a woman collecting cans for recycling in downtown Las Vegas.

Jerry Duran Howard, 24, admitted to police following his arrest on Wednesday that he stabbed Kathy Shines, 54, early Jan. 3, ripped off her clothes, dragged her behind a trash bin and later threw her into the bin, according to an arrest report.

Security video obtained by police shows a mortally wounded Shines managing to climb out of the trash bin and crawl for help before dying in an alley behind a strip mall containing a bar, smoke shop, Internet game store and pizza shop. Her naked body was found by a passer-by about six hours later.

Police said she had been stabbed in the back.

Howard stood in shackles Friday and answered, “Yes ma’am,” when Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman asked if he understood he was being charged with murder, sexual assault, kidnapping and robbery with a weapon.

Howard wasn’t asked to enter a plea pending a preliminary hearing of evidence, and his court-appointed deputy public defender, Scott Coffee, asked for an extended time to research his new client’s background.

The judge set an April 17 hearing date and noted that Howard would remain in the Clark County jail without bail.

Outside court, Coffee said Howard intends to plead not guilty, and he acknowledged the pain the case has caused for Shines’ family and Howard’s families.

Police spent several days posting security-camera images making public pleas for help before Howard’s father called Tuesday to say the photos looked like Howard.

Police reported finding items in Howard’s backpack, left at his girlfriend’s house, that investigators believe were taken from Shines, including a flashlight.

“Our heart goes out to everyone involved,” Coffee said, while adding that he was not acknowledging his client’s guilt.

Wolfson said outside court the case was one of the most brutal he encountered in 35 years as a practicing defense attorney and prosecutor.

“The death penalty is on the table,” the district attorney said. “We believe the evidence will show he brutally raped and killed this woman. At the end of the day, I’m very confident a jury will determine justice in this case.”

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