Motive revealed as Snow is sentenced for murdering SUNY Potsdam student

Published: Jul. 28, 2023 at 10:21 AM EDT
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CANTON, New York (WWNY) - The man who admitted to killing a SUNY Potsdam music major last year will spend 22 years to life in prison.

The sentence for 32-year-old Michael Snow of Massena was handed down in St. Lawrence County Court Friday morning.

“The defendant’s maximum possible sentence will be life and although it will ultimately be the decision of a parole board in approximately two decades from now, I believe the record of this proceeding clearly demonstrates that the defendant should never be granted parole,” said Judge Craig Carriero.

He pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder in the shooting death of 21-year-old Crane School of Music student Elizabeth Howell on February 18, 2022, as she walked on a road just off campus.

District Attorney Gary Pasqua tells 7 News that Howell was not Snow’s original target. He planned to target former coworkers and a family member, but the plan didn’t work out. He decided to target SUNY Potsdam instead because that’s where one of his original targets works.

“He had set in motion a plan to do that dating back two years prior to this attack. When that plan was thwarted, and he didn’t believe that would be successful, he then changed that to an attack concentrated out of a location and that was SUNY Potsdam,” said Pasqua.

According to Pasqua, Snow tried to purchase AR-15 rifles in 2020 but was unsuccessful in doing so.

Shell casings were found in Snow’s vehicle that linked him to Howell’s death, but the murder weapon has not been found.

Pasqua says Snow claimed he used a ghost gun he got online to shoot and kill Howell.

In court, Pasqua explained to Judge Carriero that on the night of February 18, 2022, Snow had beckoned Howell over for directions under the ruse of being lost before shooting her three times.

When asked if he had anything to say, Snow said that he was sorry for his actions.

“I regret to no end that I have taken an innocent life, that of Elizabeth Howell. I would like to extend my sincerest apologies to everybody impacted by my actions, especially the family of Elizabeth,” he said.

During the sentencing, Pasqua read a statement from the Howell family: ”Even though these legal proceedings may end, we will continue to weather this storm for the rest of our lives. We are imprisoned by our grief every day and we are the ones in mourning a life sentence of pain and sadness.”

Howell’s family was emotional during sentencing, while Snow remained emotionless.

In March of 2022, a grand jury indicted Snow on counts of second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault, and first-degree criminal use of a firearm.