Murder-for-Hire Trial Begins in Denton County

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The trial is underway for a Ponder man accused of hiring someone to try and kill his wife. John Franklin Howard faces charges of attempting to commit capital murder for a 2012 incident that ended with his wife getting shot in the face. (Published Thursday, Aug 7, 2014)

    After a day of jury selection and several pretrial motions, testimony began Tuesday afternoon in the case of a Ponder man who allegedly hired a gunman in an attempt on his wife's life.

    Prosecutors told the jury during opening statements that they would likely hear from more than 70 witnesses in the trial that is scheduled to last two weeks.

    Assistant Denton County District Attorney Jamie Beck told the group the lengthy trial is because it's an important one.

    The situation stems back to August of 2012 when Nancy Howard was shot in the face outside of her Carrollton home by a person who at the time was thought to be a robber.

    According to an affidavit from the arrests following the shooting, the man held a gun to her face and demanded her purse. When she complied, he fired shooting through her left temple with the bullet eventually lodging in her shoulder.

    Beck said in opening statements that the state believes her husband, John Franklin Howard, hired the gunman as well as others to kill her.

    Prosecutors claim Howard was living a double life: one locally where he went by Frank Howard and another outside of the area where he was known as John.

    In her opening statements, Beck said Howard was living part-time in California with another woman and began making arrangements in 2010 with a former prison inmate named Billy Johnson to kill his wife.

    Throughout the next two years, the prosecution said, Howard spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to pull off the hit, eventually working with Michael Lee Lorence who was arrested for the shooting.

    "This was a murder-for-hire planned, plotted and paid-for by her devoted husband of 30 years," Beck told the jury.

    The defense kept their opening statements brief, saying that the situation was "built on blackmail and drug use."

    Defense attorney Ricky Perritt urged jurors to listen to all of the evidence and not to convict if they had any reasonable doubt at the end.

    The prosecution did begin calling several witnesses Tuesday to start testifying about cell phone records from the incident among other topics.

    Testimony resumes Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. in the 362nd District Court.