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Originally published Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 8:35 PM

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Suspect in girlfriend's slaying has a violent past

Howard "Howie" Zimmerman, 46, of Bellevue, is being held on investigation of the murder of his girlfriend Susan Brockert, 44, of Bellevue, in Hawaii.

Seattle Times staff reporter

quotes Get serious with the warnings about on-line dating. The warning should realistically be... Read more
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The way Amy Zimmerman sees it, she's pretty lucky.

Her ex-husband, who has a criminal history of harassment, domestic violence and cyberstalking, was arrested Monday in connection with the slaying of his girlfriend at a resort in Hawaii.

"I'm completely aware that it could have been me," said Amy Zimmerman, who obtained a restraining order against her ex-husband during their bitter divorce.

Howard "Howie" Zimmerman, 46, of Bellevue, is being held on investigation of second-degree murder. Charges are likely to be filed by Thursday, according to Lt. Gerald Wike of the Hawaii County Police Department.

Zimmerman had accompanied Susan Brockert, 44, of Bellevue, on a function in Hawaii with her longtime employer, Bensussen Deutsch & Associates. The two were registered together at a resort on Hawaii's Big Island, according to Hawaii County police.

Police said resort employees received several calls of possible domestic violence from guests who heard screaming on Monday night. One staff member reported entering the room and seeing Zimmerman hitting Brockert in the head with an object, according to police.

Resort employees called 911 and restrained Zimmerman until police arrived, police said.

Brockert was taken to North Hawaii Community Hospital, where she died, according to police.

Amy Zimmerman, who filed for divorce in 2009 after her ex-husband began his relationship with Brockert, said she was horrified by the news, but not surprised.

"To be honest, I think he went off the deep end," she said. "Knowing what I know about him and their relationship, it was only a matter of time before something like this happened."

Brockert, a mother of two, had met Zimmerman in an online-dating site about two years ago, according to Amy Zimmerman. She acknowledged that she was not impartial, but said her former husband had confided in her about the tumultuous nature of his new relationship.

Howard Zimmerman and Brockert broke up and got back together numerous times, Amy Zimmerman said.

A friend of Brockert, Treva Patow, said Brockert was "vibrant, athletic, talkative, loyal, and full of energy and spirit."

Patow said that some of Brockert's friends had concerns about Zimmerman because he was moody.

But, she said, "Susan seemed happy. She had fallen in love with him and no matter what his problems were, she was devoted to him."

Brockert stayed with Zimmerman through his bitter divorce and planned to marry him, according to court documents. The pair had obtained a marriage license in January.

Over the past couple of years, court documents show, Howard Zimmerman has been arrested four times for domestic-violence assault, violating a restraining order, threatening and cyberstalking his ex-wife's divorce attorney and writing threatening letters to Bellevue police and employees.

While the outcome of all the charges against him were not immediately clear, court records indicate Zimmerman admitted to writing threatening letters to the city and pleaded guilty to violating a protection order. He was sentenced by a King County District Court judge to one year in jail, with 365 days suspended, and ordered to attend anger-management classes and get an alcohol and drug evaluation.

He was also prohibited from contacting his 7-year-old daughter, his ex-wife or her divorce attorney, according to court documents. The protection order involving his ex-wife is in place until 2020.

In seeking an order of protection, his ex-wife's attorney said Howard Zimmerman had told his daughter he was going to go after the attorney with a hammer.

According to Zimmerman's Facebook page, he works at Unisys and has one friend: Brockert.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.

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