Bloody shirt grabs attention at trial

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Al Key/DRC
John Franklin Howard, right, sits stoically with his attorneys while Judge Bruce McFarling read the life sentence handed down by the jury for hiring someone to kill his wife at the 362nd District Court in the Denton County Courthouse Thursday August 21, 2014, in Denton.
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John Howard’s wife’s clothing and purse presented to jury

A blood-stained beaded shirt took center stage Wednesday during the second day of testimony in the trial of John Franklin Howard at the Denton County Courts Building.

Howard, 54, is accused of plotting to kill the mother of his three children, Nancy Howard, and is facing a charge of attempt to commit capital murder. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

Nancy Howard was wearing the shirt on Aug. 18, 2012, when a man demanded her purse and shot her after she arrived at her Carrollton home in the 15000 block of Bluebonnet Way that evening, according to trial testimony.

Carrollton police Officer Nathanael Willingham testified that he followed the ambulance transporting Nancy Howard to the hospital where he obtained the shirt.

Nancy Howard was covered in blood from a wound above her left eye when she met first responders at the front door of her home, police said.

“At one point, she actually fell into my arms,” Carrollton police Officer Bryan Rybolt testified.

Rybolt said he was only with Nancy Howard for a matter of a few minutes to comfort her until medics arrived.

“I remember her saying, ‘Help me, help me,’” he said.

Rybolt also recalled seeing a plastic bag from a Taco Bueno restaurant on the driveway near the back gate of the Howard home, he told jurors.

The restaurant was the last place Nancy Howard visited before she came home and was shot, according to testimony Wednesday.

According to Carrollton police Sgt. Michael King, the first thing he tried to do was contact Nancy Howard’s cellphone company in an attempt to track her phone. He told jurors he found that the phone was believed to be near Rosemeade Parkway and Josey Lane.

“I went to Firestone because I was aware of some trash Dumpsters behind the building,” King said.

The cellphone wasn’t in any of the three trash receptacles, he said, but a fourth container for oil disposal was also at the location.

“I raised the lid, I looked down and saw a purse,” he said. “We called Nancy’s phone, waited to hear it ring and we heard it ring.”

The purse was presented to the jury and placed into evidence before lunch Wednesday.

Carrollton police Detective David Taylor said he returned to the scene the next day — Aug.19 — and recovered Nancy Howard’s driver’s license and credit cards from inside the same oil receptacle where the purse was found. Police didn’t retrieve the items the night before because it was too dark and the oil made it difficult to breathe, he said.

Defense team Jerry Cobb and Ricky Perritt did not allow prosecutors to speculate before the jurors during testimony, but when prosecutor Rick Daniel asked Taylor if this type of situation is typical in a robbery, he replied “no.”

The third day of testimony in the trial is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. today with 362nd District Court Judge Bruce McFarling presiding.

MEGAN GRAY-HATFIELD can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.


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