Man wrongly convicted in Macomb County 7-Eleven robbery walks free after serving 7 years

Evidence shows Mack Howell could not have committed robbery, officials say

FILE -- Gavel in courtroom. Mack Howell, 62, is free after serving seven and a half years in prison for a 2014 armed robbery at a 7-Eleven store in Eastpointe that he did not commit. (sergeitokmakov/

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. – A man who spent nearly eight years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit has had his conviction vacated and is finally free.

Mack Howell, 62, served seven and a half years of a 25 to 50-year sentence after a jury convicted him of an April 3, 2014, armed robbery at a 7-Eleven store in Eastpointe. Howell was sentenced on Oct. 17, 2016.

An 11-month-long investigation from the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) revealed evidence that indicated Howell could not have committed the crime.

'To allow the conviction to stand would be a serious miscarriage of justice'

The starting point for the investigation was that the description of the suspect did not match how Howell appeared at the time of the robbery. Prosecutors said the evidence made it clear that “to allow the conviction to stand would be a serious miscarriage of justice.”

The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office requested the court vacate and dismiss Howell’s conviction based on this evidence. Howell was released from the Michigan Department of Corrections on Monday, March 20, 2023. Howell has maintained his innocence since his first interview with police.

The Macomb County Prosector’s Office shared the details of the case and the CIU’s investigation in a press release.

How Howell became a suspect in the 2014 robbery

On April 3, 2014, a 7-Eleven store at 18700 10 Mile Road in Eastpointe was robbed.

The suspect was wearing black clothing, a black cap on his head and a mask to conceal his face. Only his eyes were visible.

The store clerk described him as being six feet tall with a “medium” build. A weapon was not seen, but he threatened to shoot the clerk several times. After the robbery, the suspect was seen running from the store. Nobody was injured.

Police brought a tracking dog to the scene to help with the investigation. The K9 was taken into the store, but was not given anything touched by the suspect to scent.

The dog started tracking outside of the store and hit on a paper bag on the ground by a trash bin near the entrance of the store. There was a beer can inside the paper bag.

The suspect was never seen with a paper bag or with a beer can. Despite that, the beer can was checked for fingerprints and DNA.

A fingerprint was lifted from the can but it was not Howell’s fingerprint. The can did have Howell’s DNA and the DNA of an unknown person.

Several months after the robbery took place, the clerk identified Howell as the suspect through a photo. That is despite the fact that the clerk never saw the suspect’s face and the robbery was over quickly.

The photo identification and the DNA from the beer can led to charges against Howell.

5 other armed robberies at 7-Eleven stores

There were five other armed robberies at 7-Eleven stores in Macomb County between July 16, 2014, and Aug. 20, 2014.

A 7-Eleven store on 10 Mile Road in Warren was robbed three times that year. The robberies occurred on July 16, Aug. 10 and Aug. 15, 2014.

A 7-Eleven store on Harper Avenue in St. Clair Shores was robbed once on July 25, 2014.

The Eastpointe 7-Eleven store that Howell was accused of robbing was robbed again on Aug. 20, 2014.

Prosecutors said a suspect in that series of armed robberies at 7-Eleven stores has recently been discovered.

How new evidence set Howell free

Evidence that was not presented at the time of the trial “fatally undermines” Howell’s conviction, prosecutors said.

At the time of the robbery, Howell had a severe medical issue and walked with a cane. Prosecutors said Howell was “physically incapable” of committing the robbery and fleeing from the scene.

The suspect was believed to be six feet tall with a “medium” build. Howell was 5′6′' tall and “heavy set” at the time of the robbery.

A dog track expert has questioned the reliability of the dog track in this case. This is because the dog started its track outside, in an area that had been heavily trafficked and contaminated by numerous people.

An eyewitness expert has explained to prosecutors how Howell may have been misidentified by the witness in this case.

Howell walks free after 7.5 years in prison

Howell’s sentence was vacated and he was released from prison on March 20, 2023.

Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Edward Servitto vacated and dismissed Howell’s conviction after receiving the prosecutor’s request.

The prosecutor’s office “wishes Mr. Howell the best upon his release and return to his family.”

Macomb County Prosecutor Peter J. Lucido, Macomb County Conviction Integrity Unit Chief Gail M. Pamukov, Howell and Howell’s attorney David Moran will discuss the case at a press conference next week. The press conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 29, 2023.

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.