Jury finds Howard guilty

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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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Man convicted of plotting to have his wife murdered

It took a Denton County jury only two hours Tuesday to find John Franklin Howard guilty of attempting to commit capital murder.

The Ponder man was convicted of plotting and paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to arrange the murder of Nancy Howard, his wife of 30 years.

Shortly after delivering their verdict, jurors were instructed by 362nd District Court Judge Bruce McFarling to begin the punishment phase of the trial. John Howard could be sentenced to prison for a term ranging from 5 to 99 years and have to pay up to a $10,000 fine.

The state brought forth one witness after the punishment phase began, and jurors were sent home for the day. They will return today at 8:30 a.m. to continue the punishment phase.

Members of John Howard’s family were visibly upset by the verdict and tissues were passed to his mother, Juadeen Howard.

She and her husband, Joe Howard, have been sitting in the courtroom for the past two weeks supporting their son throughout the trial.

“It’s sad,” Joe Howard said on hearing the verdict. “We are disappointed.”

In closing arguments, prosecutors Michael Graves and Jamie Beck told the jurors it had been two years and one day since Nancy Howard was robbed and shot inside her Carrollton home, a crime they blamed on a double life led by her husband, John Franklin “Frank” Howard.

“Imagine being accosted in your own home,” First Assistant District Attorney Beck told jurors before they began deliberations Tuesday morning.

Nancy Howard was in Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas for two weeks recovering from injuries she received from a bullet that entered above her left temple and caused her to lose an eye.

Beck told jurors that Nancy Howard found out over the phone while in the hospital that her husband was having an affair.

“When divorce is not an option, you have to choose a different course,” Graves said.

John Franklin Howard led a double life — one of a “loving husband” and one of a “loving adulterer,” Graves said. The prosecution also mentioned John Howard’s mistress, Suzanne Leontieff, and the text messages she sent in May 2012 demanding that he be with her.

Defense attorney Jerry Cobb said Frank Howard had an affair and that might make him a bad person, but no evidence was shown to the jury linking him to the man that Carrollton Police Detective Michael Wall says is the suspected shooter.

“There was no evidence that he even talked to Michael Lorence or he even knew who he was,” Cobb said.

Lorence is currently in the Denton County Jail on charges of aggravated robbery and criminal conspiracy to commit capital murder linked to the shooting of Nancy Howard on Aug. 18, 2012.

“Where is the evidence that divorce is unacceptable?” Cobb asked the jurors during his closing arguments.

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


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