Text messages presented during testimony

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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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Dustin Hiroms, who was once charged in the shooting of Nancy Howard, testified Tuesday that her husband allegedly paid him thousands of dollars in an attempt to have his wife killed.

John Franklin Howard, now on trial in a Denton courtroom, is accused of plotting since 2009 to have his wife, Nancy Howard, murdered and could face up to life in prison if convicted of attempt to commit capital murder.

Nancy Howard was robbed of her purse and shot inside the garage of her Carrollton home in the 1500 block of Bluebonnet Way on Aug. 18, 2012, and Hiroms was one of the first people police investigated in connection with the shooting, according to Carrollton police affidavits.

During Tuesday afternoon’s testimony, Hiroms told jurors he began accepting cash from John Howard after the arrest of Billie Earl Johnson on drug charges in June 2012. Johnson previously testified that John Howard also paid him to kill his wife.

“If you pay me 25K I will do it tonight,” stated a text that prosecutors alleged was from Hiroms to John Howard.

Hiroms identified John Howard in the presence of the jurors and said he did recall some of the texts, but not all of them. In order to have a decoy, he said he saved John Howard’s number under “Jose” and that’s why the incoming texts were from that name. All outgoing texts, he said, were deleted.

Defense team members Jerry Cobb and Ricky Perritt demanded to know if Hiroms was on the stand providing testimony because he no longer had pending charges linking him to the Carrollton offense.

In addition, the defense questioned his testimony since Hiroms is currently in Van Zandt County Jail after allegedly assaulting another witness, his grandmother, Barbara Hiroms.

Dustin Hiroms said he is in jail on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after getting into a fight and knocking a hole in the wall. Barbara Hiroms testified Tuesday morning that her grandson assaulted her.

“How do we know he didn’t threaten her over today’s testimony?” Perritt questioned.

Dustin Hiroms told First Assistant District Attorney Jamie Beck that he had difficulty remembering a lot of dates surrounding the offense because he was “on drugs.”

He testified to smoking at least an “eight ball,” which he said was about 3.5 grams of methamphetamine, a day for a period of time and told jurors that his mother, Stacey Serenko, thought John Howard was on cocaine.

Serenko testified to her alleged involvement in the case Monday.

Dustin Hiroms said he never intended to kill Nancy Howard and wanted to confront her at one point to let her know what was going on. He didn’t, because he wanted to be paid by John Howard first, he testified.

According to Carrollton police records, Dustin Hiroms was pulled over on a traffic stop near the former couple’s Carrollton home July 13 and at that time, he told police he was a hit man. After the shooting, he was charged with aggravated robbery, according to police records.

Those charges have since been dropped after further investigation, according to the district attorney’s office.

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


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