Couple’s children take stand 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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State, defense rest cases in courtroom

As the trial for John Franklin Howard began its third week on Monday, the state and defense both rested their cases.

The Ponder man is accused of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire hit men to kill his wife of 30 years, Nancy Howard — the mother of their three children. If convicted of attempt to commit capital murder, he could spend life in prison.

All three of the couple’s grown children took the witness stand Monday. None of them testified to believing their father had attempted to have their mother killed.

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. She was in Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas for two weeks while recovering from injuries she received from the bullet that entered above her left temple and caused her to lose her left eye.

“He was upset, crying and wouldn’t eat,” Ashley Faus said, describing her father the day after her mother had been shot.

Faus said family members heard a crash while walking toward her mother’s hospital room the day after the shooting, and when they turned around, it was their father in the hallway. He had to be helped to the room, Faus said.

All three children — Faus, Brianna Griffin and Jay Howard — testified in Judge Bruce McFarling’s 362nd District Court that their family was always close and they were shocked to learn of their father’s affair with Suzanne Leontieff in California. While upset, they were grateful he came clean, according to their testimony.

Jay Howard told jurors that his father told him to not make assumptions on anything he said and to use his own logic and understanding to figure things out. He also testified that his father broke down the day he arrived — one day after the shooting — from California to see his wife in the hospital, describing him as “heartbroken” and “in shock.”

During testimony, Jay Howard said the only thing his father talked about for the first six months after the shooting was to find the person who shot his wife. He offered reward money and to go to the media, Jay Howard said, but Carrollton police Detective Michael Wall told him it “was not necessary.”

Griffin, the couple’s youngest daughter, was married on May 4 of this year. During earlier testimony, Nancy Howard said she had to give permission for John Howard to attend the wedding that took place in Nashville, Tennessee, so he could walk their daughter down the aisle.

The children testified they had never seen their father be violent toward their mother, and that they rarely talk about the incident, in order to keep the peace and have an open relationship with their parents.

John Howard took the stand twice on Monday without jurors present. First Assistant District Attorney Jamie Beck asked him if he had passed any messages to his former wife or children through his former attorney, Arch McColl, while in the Denton County Jail after his arrest. He said no.

The second time he took the stand, Ricky Perritt, a member of his defense team, told him of his rights to testify. John Howard waived those rights before getting emotional and leaving the stand without testifying.

Closing arguments are set to begin at 8:30 a.m. today 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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