Trial testimony focuses on money

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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 Franklin Howard, on trial in a Denton courtroom for attempt to commit capital murder, allegedly paid about $2 million to have the mother of his three children killed, two witnesses testified Monday.

Nancy Howard was shot above her left eye in her Carrollton home Aug.18, 2012, and was left seriously injured.

Billie Earl Johnson, in federal custody after pleading guilty to drug trafficking violations in East Texas, told jurors Friday that Howard asked him to kill Nancy Howard for the first time in 2010.

As testimony continued Monday in Judge Bruce McFarling’s 362nd District Court, Johnson told jurors that he estimated that John Howard paid him as much as $2 million. He testified that some of the money covered bail bond expenses and the remainder was compensation in the murder plot.

During Johnson’s ongoing testimony, he also alleged that John Howard was going to share an insurance policy with him.

Prosecutors alleged that Johnson shared some of the money with his girlfriend, Stacey Serenko.

Serenko testified Monday that she knew the money was coming from John Howard, but she didn’t want to have anything to do with Nancy Howard’s murder.

Both Johnson and Serenko testified they were just enjoying the influx of money and not having to work. They were not going to follow through with the job, according to their testimony.

The two, along with their friend, Jennifer Northcutt, who also testified she benefited from John Howard’s money, are serving time for pleading guilty to a federal drug charge in East Texas involving methamphetamine.

Defense attorney Ricky Perritt questioned the testimony of the witnesses Monday.

According to a document read before the judge by Perritt, Johnson was never indicted on any charges linked to his involvement in Nancy Howard’s alleged murder-for hire plot.

John Howard could face up to life in prison if convicted of attempt to commit capital murder.

Testimony continues today at 8:30 a.m. at the Denton County Courts Building.

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

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