Police: Carrollton man arranged for wife to be shot

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by REBECCA LOPEZ and MATT GOODMAN

Bio | Email | Follow: @rlopezwfaa

WFAA

Posted on August 28, 2012 at 11:50 AM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 29 at 9:58 AM

CARROLLTON — The husband of a woman shot in the face in the garage of her Carrollton home was arrested on Sunday for hiring a hit man to kill her. 

Nancy Howard was shot when she arrived at her home on August 18. The gunman fired a gun at her face, sending a bullet through her left eye. She was in a coma for several days and lost her eye, but is expected to make a full recovery.

"The bullet traveled through her throat and lodged just above her right lung," according to a description of the incident posted on Mrs. Howard's CaringBridge page.

The family has added photos and updates on Nancy Howard's condition on that CaringBridge website since the incident. In one of the posts, a man who identifies himself as Nancy's husband posted:

"Please pray for Nancy's comfort so she can get her much needed rest and for the doctors so we can know how to proceed. Thanks for all your prayers and support."

That man, John Franklin Howard, 52, was charged with solicitation of capital murder and is being held on a $1 million bond.

The arrest affidavit alleges Howard hatched a plan to kill his wife in 2009, sending more than $100,000 to numerous suspects since then.

The affidavit begins on August 18, when Mrs. Howard returned home, finding that unknown man in his early 20s awaiting her in the garage.

The man pulled a handgun and put it to Mrs. Howard’s head, demanding her purse. After she gave it to him, the affidavit says the man shot her in the face and fled.

Nancy Howard was able to call police and tell them what happened. 

Six days later, a detective investigating the incident learned that officers stopped a white Honda Accord on July 13 in the 3500 block of Standridge Drive, located about a half mile from the Howards’ Carrollton home on Bluebonnet Way.

The driver — Van, Texas resident Dustin Hiroms — told officers he was in Carrollton to retrieve money from his uncle who lives on Bluebonnet Way. Hiroms said his uncle was supposed to leave money in the meter box at a specific house on that street, which would also have a Lexus parked in the driveway.  

The passenger, Louisiana resident Jason Rendine, told officers that the Lexus wasn’t parked there. The pair's story then shifted, the affidavit says, and they told police they were actually looking for an investor, not an uncle.

The affidavit says the officer saw the car circling the area “several times” prior to the traffic stop. Hiroms was arrested on traffic offenses, but told the arresting officer a stunning piece of information beforehand.

“Just prior to Hiroms’ arrest, Hiroms advised Officer Burnham that he was working for a guy named John and that Hiroms was a hit man,” the affidavit says.

The house Hiroms and Rendine referred to was the same house where the Howards lived, and would later be the scene of the shooting. John Howard also drove a gray Lexus.

On July 15, two days after that stop, the affidavit says a Van Police Department sergeant called Carrollton police to say a man identified as Jason Rendine was heard discussing a “hit” that Hiroms was hired to perform.

“Dustin Hiroms was hired to ‘get rid of’ the wife of an unknown white male who lives in Carrollton,” the affidavit says.

The Van sergeant said Hiroms was recently paid $30,000 by this unknown male. On top of this, the sergeant said Hiroms was driving a white Honda and had recently been arrested in Carrollton.

On August 22, the investigating detective learned that Rendine and his wife Stephanie Delacerda were arrested by Bossier Parrish Sheriff’s Department officers on a drug charge in their hometown of Bossier City, Louisiana.

When Delacerda was arrested, authorities seized $14,900 in cash. Authorities took a Wells Fargo checkbook and a Samsung cell phone after a search warrant was issued.

Later that day, the affidavit says Delacerda told investigators that she had a “business relationship” with John Howard of Genschu Management Company. She said Howard put $35,000 in her Wells Fargo account for a “business transaction.”

She later changed her statement, saying Howard paid her that money for sex.

A subsequent investigation found that Howard’s company, the aforementioned Genschu Management, also wired $20,000 into Delacerda’s Wells Fargo account.

But back in Denton County, authorities received word that an inmate had information regarding the shooting of Nancy Howard. 

The man was Billie Johnson, Dustin Hirom’s stepfather. He told investigators John Howard contacted him three years prior asking if he would kill Howard's wife, the affidavit says. 

Johnson knew John Howard was a CPA, had a girlfriend in California and drove a gray Lexus. He knew the type of vehicle Nancy Howard drove, the affidavit says, and said he repeatedly discussed the hit with Howard during the past three years.

But Johnson never told investigators how much money Howard gave him and his family.

Two days after he spoke with investigators, the FBI sent a statement from Johnson’s wife, Stacy Serenko, who is also Hiroms’s mother. The statement says Howard contacted Johnson in 2009 because he heard Johnson “did murder for hire,” the affidavit says.

“John wanted someone to kill his wife, Nancy Howard, and stressed that the murder ‘had to look like an accident,’” according to the affidavit.

In about March 2009, Howard paid Johnson and Serenko about $85,000 and gave them photos of Nancy and information detailing her schedule. John Howard also registered another phone number that was to be used between himself, Johnson and Serenko, the affadavit said.

Her statement said they would typically meet at a Whataburger parking lot near Old Denton Road and the George Bush Turnpike or a Shell station near Highway 635 and Coit Road to discuss ways to kill Nancy Howard, the affidavit said.

Serenko also told investigators that Howard would wire money into one of three accounts — either to her mother, Barbara Hiroms; bail bondsmen Jimmy Pickens and Christy Pickens, who Johnson and Serenko would use if they were arrested; or Johnson’s son, Kurt Johnson.

The statement sent to Carrollton investigators said Dustin Hiroms was actively speaking with Howard and receiving money from him.

On August 24, investigators got an arrest warrant for Hiroms and caught him in Van, Texas for the aggravated robbery of Nancy Howard.

During questioning, Hiroms told police he wasn’t the shooter, but that Howard spoke to him. He also identified a photo of John Howard.

Hiroms said Howard wanted him to kill his wife, and that Howard had wired him about $80,000. Typically, this money would go to his grandmother’s bank account –– one of which Serenko told investigators Howard would use.

On July 4, Hiroms said Howard picked him up in his gray Lexus and drove him to his home. While driving there, Hiroms told investigators Howard asked him to kill his wife and gave him $24,000 in cash.

On August 4, Hiroms called Howard to ask for more money. Howard obliged, the affidavit says, and drove to Van to pay Hiroms $5,000.

During this exchange, Howard is accused of telling Hiroms to kill his wife while she was staying at the Gaylord Texan hotel between August 8 and August 11.

“Dustin stated that John believed that a gunshot would bring too much attention and that John wanted him to make it look like a robbery and either kill Nancy with a knife or a bat,” the affidavit said.

The detective checked it out: Nancy Howard stayed in a room at the Gaylord Hotel on August 8-11. Hiroms said John Howard wired his grandmother $7,500 during this time and paid him $10,000 in cash at a Mesquite clothing store on August 9. The affidavit does not mention anyone making an attempt on Mrs. Howard's life during her stay at the hotel. 

Investigators later questioned Barbara Hiroms in Smith County, the affidavit says. She showed detectives a cell phone photo sent to her by her daughter, Serenko, showing a white man sitting in a gray car. 

Dustin Hiroms was shown the photo and identified the man as John Howard. He said the photo was taken in 2010 when Howard came to speak with them. 

The affidavit said this evidence led investigators to believe that Howard hired Johnson and Hiroms to kill his wife, Nancy Howard.

John Howard was arrested on Sunday and remains in the Denton County Jail on $1 million bond.

Carrollton police are not discussing the crime, citing the ongoing investigation. 

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.commgoodman@wfaa.com

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