Michael Snow (L) and Elizabeth Howell (R)

Michael Snow, on the left, and Elizabeth Howell, on the right. (New York State Police)

An upstate New York man pleaded guilty on Thursday to murdering an accomplished concert cellist and college senior in February 2022.

Michael Snow, 32, entered a guilty plea on one count of murder in the second degree over the shooting death of SUNY Potsdam Crane School of Music student and orchestra member Elizabeth Howell, 21.

The young woman died in the moments after she left campus on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. Howell was discovered early that evening, at around 6:00 p.m., unconscious, and suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, on the side of College Park Road. She was taken to Canton-Potsdam Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Snow was arrested the next night after law enforcement ascertained and shared details about the car seen leaving the scene of the crime. The New York State Police said the man in the gray Honda Civic left Potsdam before going through the towns of Hopkinton, Malone, Westville, Hogansburg, and finally arrived in Massena.

Law enforcement and prosecutors publicly indicated that they were unable to determine a motive for the woman’s death. In statements to various media outlets after the beloved musician’s murder, SUNY officials said the defendant has never had any affiliation with the university. Police said he also had no prior affiliation with his victim before he shot and killed her.

“Our investigation hasn’t turned up any sort of a link,” St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary Pasqua said in comments reported by Carthage, New York-based CBS affiliate WWNY after the defendant was formally indicted. “So I really couldn’t tell you what motivation there would be for this to have occurred.”

At an earlier bail hearing, Pasqua described Howell’s murder as a “random act of violence,” according to North Country Now.

Originally charged with one count of second-degree murder, he faced additional charges of murder in the first degree, manslaughter, first-degree assault, and first-degree criminal use of a firearm.

Snow initially pleaded not guilty to each count against him.

The additional charges were dropped under his plea agreement.

“This is an agreement that was made between the defendant and the court, which every defendant has a right to do,” Pasqua told WWNY on Thursday. “I do believe the evidence we had was damning. We had evidence, video evidence from not only throughout St. Lawrence County but Franklin County as well of Mr. Snow on that day. We have video evidence from the scene of the crime, at the time of the crime.”

During the plea hearing, Judge Craig P. Carriero committed to sentence the defendant to an indeterminate term in state prison with a minimum of 22 years behind bars – with a maximum sentence of life.

Snow’s sentencing hearing is slated for July 28.

The defendant was set to go on trial in late August. His case was first delayed due to pandemic court closures. The process played out slowly after that when Snow asked the court to allow him to represent himself – which a judge signed off on after a hearing. Then, after receiving the favorable ruling, the defendant opted to be represented by a public defender in the end, WWNY reports.

Howell was set to graduate the year she died.

“She was an aspiring educator with a bright future ahead of her.” SUNY Potsdam President Dr. Phil Neisser wrote in a letter posted online the day after the violence. “Together, we – as one united campus community – honor her life and mourn her loss.”

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