Alleged shooter’s ex-girlfriend testifies

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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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Misti Ford told jurors that she was surprised to hear that the man she was about to marry confessed to shooting a woman in Carrollton, as John Franklin Howard’s trial for attempt to commit capital murder continued Thursday.

Howard is accused of paying various individuals to kill his wife, Nancy Howard. The mother of their three children was robbed of her purse and shot in the garage of their home in the 1500 block of Bluebonnet Way in Carrollton on Aug. 18, 2012. She suffered serious injuries as the result of the gunshot wound, including the loss of her left eye.

Ford said she was engaged to Michael Lee Lorence and expected to marry him in October 2012. Lorence is in the Denton County Jail on charges of aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit capital murder in connection with Nancy Howard’s shooting, according to Carrollton police investigators.

Lorence’s court-appointed attorney, Sarah Roland, was present for the testimony.

Ford told jurors that the two met in 2010 in California before he spent time in jail. When Lorence got out of jail in June 2012, she testified, he moved in with her at her home in Hemet, California, where they began a relationship. During that time, Lorence told Ford that he met a man named Michael Speck while both were serving time in jail, she said.

Speck is the nephew of Billie Johnson, the man prosecutors allege was originally hired by John Howard to kill his wife. Johnson is currently in federal custody for drug trafficking.

Ford told the jury that they planned to travel to Texas to “catch up” with Speck and ask him to be the best man at their wedding.

On Aug. 14, 2012, Speck wired $1,000 through Western Union to the couple so they would be able to make the trip to East Texas. She said that with a bad tire and not wanting to put miles on her Honda Civic, Lorence suggested renting a vehicle. They rented a Nissan Altima from Hertz, she told jurors.

After the two arrived in Grand Saline, where they stayed with members of Speck’s family, she said Lorence and Speck left early one morning to “go sightseeing” and do “side jobs” in Dallas. She said she played on Facebook all day with her cellphone and testified that the two didn’t return until after midnight, with alcohol.

She testified that Lorence’s behavior was not normal for him because he was drinking and very quiet, saying he usually is very talkative and doesn’t drink.

“He said he had murdered somebody, a female. He shot her in her garage in her forehead,” she testified in Judge Bruce McFarling’s 362nd District Court.

When she heard the news, she said, she went out for a walk and started crying. She said Lorence had and continued to be violent toward her, and she eventually left him Oct. 8, 2012.

Prosecutor Rick Daniel asked Ford to read the rental car license plate number to the jurors. The plates matched ones caught on camera in Carrollton the night of the shooting, according to evidence presented by the state.

Ford told the jury she was unaware if any additional money was paid out besides the $1,000, one-time transfer. She told defense attorney Jerry Cobb that part of the $1,000 was to bring Speck’s brother to Grand Saline, which they did after picking him up along the way. She did not say where they stopped to pick up Speck’s brother.

When asked by Daniel why she didn’t call the police, she told him she was afraid Lorence might do the same thing to her. She testified she did not tell police about the confession until she was questioned in January of last year.

Ford isn’t facing any charges linked to the alleged murder-for-hire plot.

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


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