Man accused of killing man at Gilbert group home was released after murdering grandparents

Jamie Landers
Arizona Republic
Arizona State Hospital.

The man accused of killing a Gilbert group home resident Monday had recently been released from a state mental health facility where he was sentenced to life after being convicted of murdering his grandparents in 2005. 

Christopher Lambeth, 36, was arrested Monday for allegedly beating his housemate to death after police responded to an unknown call for trouble near Pecos and Higley roads.

According to documents Gilbert police filed in court, officers could see Steven Howells, 49, through a window outside the home with a pool of blood around his head, not moving. 

Lambeth was found in the bathroom shower washing blood off of his body. 

During an interview with detectives, Lambeth admitted to punching, stomping and strangling the victim, court documents stated.

He was booked with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of second-degree murder. He is being held in the Fourth Avenue Jail on $2 million bond, according to online Sheriff's Office records. 

Lambeth was convicted of murder in 2005 

Christopher Lambeth.

In 2005, Lambeth was convicted of stabbing his grandparents, 76-year-old Carl Gremmler and 72-year-old Patricia Gremmler, to death. 

According to reporting from The Arizona Daily Star in 2007, Lambeth pleaded guilty, but insane, to two counts of first-degree murder in Pima County Superior Court, each count carrying a life sentence with parole possible after 25 years. Lambeth, who has schizophrenia, was deemed incompetent to stand trial and spent several months in Arizona State Hospital while doctors tried to stabilize him with medication.

Lambeth was later declared competent to stand trial, but the Star reported the plea agreement was reached after doctors hired by both the defense and the state determined Lambeth was suffering from a psychotic break at the time of the murder and didn't know right from wrong. 

In 2009, a Pima County Superior Court jury determined two Tucson agencies, COPE Community Services and Community Partnership of Arizona, were 50% responsible for leaving Lambeth with his relatives instead of at a mental health facility. 

His mother, Lisa Lambert, and her sister, Karen McCollum, were awarded $1.5 million in a wrongful-death lawsuit. 

After his conviction, Lambeth was then sent back to the Arizona State Hospital, but according to minutes from the Arizona Psychiatric Review Board, Lambeth was unanimously approved to be released in August 2020 to a step-down facility and to allow him to attend a 12-step meeting once per week.

The minutes stated Lambeth was "very responsible and has been making progress." 

Reach the reporter Jamie Landers at Follow her on Twitter @jamielandersx