tv Dateline Extra MSNBC December 25, 2020 3:00pm-5:00pm PST
>> there are children in this world just like conrad and i can't even imagine anything like this happening again. suddenly, there was a man with his arm around my neck and a gun to my head. i shoved my purse into his chest and i said jesus save me. and the bullet shot me right in the head and i went down. >> lord jesus. oh my god. >> it came out of nowhere, a sweet stay at home mom from a strong family of faith shot point bank at her own garage door. >> my dad is like collapsed on the ground. >> it was very traumatic to see,
very emotional time. >> her survival seemed like a miracle. >> i didn't know if i would live. >> was this some awful random crime or did someone want her dead? that was mystery number one. >> someone was out there. >> yeah. we were scared. >> mystery number two? a secret 1600 miles away. >> there were several text messages. >> just slowly snowballing. >> it was like a punch in the gut. >> and mystery number three. >> i'm mean. i'm going to hurt you. >> who would they turn out to be? >> like dang, what did this lady do? >> faith, temptation, and a twist the size of texas. >> let's be very clear, justice needs to be served. i don't think it has been. carrollton, texas north of dallas is where the upwardly
mobile go to by dreams. the schools are good, golf courses got the landscape and churches are more u bictous than starbucks. >> there is not a lot of violent crime in the area. great area to raise kids and a family. >> safe neighborhood. >> for sure. >> but travel east 100 miles or so and you enter the piney woods of east texas. jobs are not as plentiful hear, dreams are deferred and some keep bail bondsmen on speed dial. >> all the people we're dealing with are poor. there is a lot of drugs and meth out there. >> different cultures, worlds apart and yet, one summer those two worlds collided in the most unlikely way. this is the story of that summer when money seemed to fall like ticker tape on the piney woods and a carrollton family experienced the kind of violent crime that had always happened somewhere else. >> help me.
help me. help me. >> i need you to call me immediately. your mom is not hospital with a gunshot wound. i'm sorry, what? >> it's we look at each other, michael and i say we can't make this up. >> our story begins in august 2012. >> can you believe it? 100 degrees again this afternoon. >> it was the kind of heat that melts asphalt. it has everyone searching the sky for some sign of mercy but in carlton, 52-year-old frank howard wasn't sweating it. frank was an accountant. his life was good, and getting better by the day. >> i took on a new client and that would have been probably in 2009. >> very wealthy client. >> yes. >> what did that come along with, the perks? >> the wealthy client had his own airports so i guess for the first time probably flying around in private planes and go
to cowboy games. >> as they say in texas, frank howard was standing in high cotton. >> i was still the same old guy but it was definitely doing some fun things, as well. >> frank had come a long way since his days as a preacher's son growing up in south central, texas. >> very conservative upbringing. you know, there was no drinking and cussing. never been to the dance. you know, the school prom. never did any of that kind of stuff, but at the same time, you know, wanting to be just very down to earth, very honest and try to be the best person you can be. >> solid values to last a lifetime, but it wasn't all smooth sailing. in college, frank had a brief marriage that ended in divorce. eventually, he fell in love with a girl from his church. her name was nancy shore. a brunette with dazzling blue eyes. >> it was a great time. you know, i still look back at that and think it was a good time. >> frank's father married the
happy couple in 1983 and two years later they had their first child a daughter they named ashley. >> that wasn't an easy birth. >> no. >> there were problems. >> yeah, yeah, there were complications. she spent the first ten days of her life in the neo natal unit at the hospital. >> it was a close call but one that seemed to deepen and enrich the couple's faith. soon, the family grew to include a son, jay, and another daughter breanna. >> growing up was great. i had a wonderful older sister and older brother who had kind of helped guide me through stuff and obviously, wonderful mom and dad. >> eldest daughter ashley says whatever the howard family did, they did together. >> both our parents did choir in church. any time they needed a family, oh, get the howards. they will come. bring all the kids.
>> we were, you know, always together. always a family. we went to all of their events. they were busy always doing something. i mean, whether it was, you know, soccer or, you know, anything in the fine arts. >> in fifth grade i was in a play and my dad actually played my dad and i actually loved that. he was always a bible study leader so a lot of the guys my age were like your dad is so cool. he's really not. >> you guys sound like "leave it to beaver". >> we joke we were the cleavers. breanna was beaverly. we had family howard game night. >> absolutely. >> but by 2012, those days were gone. frank and nancy were now empty nesters. ashley and her brother jay were each married and on their own. breanna was in college in nashville.
you were so close with your kids. was it hard as one by one they started leaving the nest and going off to college? >> sure, yeah, it was. i'm proud of them. it was difficult. i mean, change is difficult. >> now nancy was often home alone. frank's work with his new client a wealthy defense contractor had him traveling to florida, california, even kuwait. >> there was a little bit more freedom or whatever and like i said i lot of it was work and she was sitting at home. >> still, nancy had her faith and church activities to fill the empty hours. in fact, that's where she had been the evening everything changed for the howard family. it was a saturday night august 18th, 2012. you're out of town? >> yes. >> you get a call. >> yes. >> that something horrific has happened to nancy.
there's been a robbery at your own house? >> yes, i was just -- just beside myself. i didn't know, you know, what was happening. >> and so began one of the longest nights of frank howard's life. coming up. >> god help me. >> yes, ma'am. >> help me. >> a harrowing cry for help. terror was at the door. >> i'm like our mother? that just makes no sense. >> almost like it wasn't real. >> yeah, like it wasn't real. >> that's when i found out that something had happened. i was crying and just going crazy. >> when "the carrollton plot" continues. carrollton plot" continues. gh, you know how i feel. ♪ ♪ breeze drifting on by you know how i feel. ♪ ♪ it's a new dawn... if you've been taking copd sitting down, it's time to make a stand. start a new day with trelegy. no once-daily copd medicine has the power to treat copd in as many ways as trelegy.
with three medicines in one inhaler, trelegy helps people breathe easier and improves lung function. it also helps prevent future flare-ups. trelegy won't replace a rescue inhaler for sudden breathing problems. tell your doctor if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure before taking it. do not take trelegy more than prescribed. trelegy may increase your risk of thrush, pneumonia, very good day to you. i'm richard lui we. we're getting to a press conference in nashville after an explosion of an rv. let's listen in. >> evidence shows the early morning explosion was ade a deliberate bomb being set off in the community. the blast caused injuries and catastrophic damage to this very historic part of nashville. now, at the end of the day, i think all of us, i certainly have, gone from relief there
were not more casualties and that's an amazing thing that there were not particularly when people begin to see the devastation on second avenue to relief there were not more casualties to now anger and determination and resolve and a resolve to be, to rebuilt and not to be deterred and to bring whoever was responsible for this to justice. now, i've spoken with governor lee who is working with us to have a decoloration, a civil emergency both with the state and then for tema to work with fema to bring all possible resources to commence to rebuilding second avenue. to go forward, not be deterred by this and i'm grateful to the state and federal partners to help this important part of nashville rebuild and come back. there are 41 at least separate
businesses that are materially damaged by this blast. there will be others as we see the full extent of this but already, you can tell that it's going to need special help, special resources and i'm grateful to the start partnering with us to commit to rebuilding second. now, i want to stand with the down town residents and our business owners for whom this was a terrible day, but we are like nashville has faced other challenges particularly this year, we can rebuild and get back to normal. now, as announced earlier, metro is establishing a curfew in the explosion impact area from 4:30 today until 4:30 p.m. this sunday. now, affected businesses i would urge them to contact crystal lap at 862-8600 to be able to manage
coming back to your facilities safely but in the meantime, the curfew area is going to provide safety and security for businesses in this area and i will go ahead and warn nashville it will be sometime before second avenue is back to normal. it is not going to be the three days of the curfew for second avenue itself. the curfew is going to go from fourth to the river to james robertson down to broadway. the police are going to take special care with that for the next few days and our partners at the fbi do have a large crime scene to investigate and they need to be able to do that work effectively and well. now, this morning's attack on our community was intended to create chaos and fear in this season of peace and hope, but nashville people have proven time and time again the spirit of our city cannot be broken but we're not going to rest until those responsible for this outrageous and cowardly attack are brought to justice and the
full force of the metro police and our partners with the fbi and the atf are working together to make sure that we will get back to being a safe city that we are. now, three people have been hospitalized as a result of the explosion are in stable condition and my prayers are with them and their loved ones. tonight i was able to visit with a 4-year-old girl this morning who was had no injury and was saved but let's just spend a moment in celebration of the six uniformed metro police officers from our central precinct who were at the scene at the time of the blast. these incredible heroes who ran to danger with uncertain outcomes ahead of them were responsible for so many injuries being saved. i have spoken with chief drake
and i can record the officers injured by this are recovering well. i'd like chief drake to come evaluating the officers who took swift action and directed people away from danger to save lives even at the time that their own lives would have been imperil d imperilled. they are heroes and i'm grateful to them and all of nashville's first responders. this is a year we understand what first responders mean to our community time and time again and unfortunately, on christmas day you have another example of that. now, several downtown residents whose homes were destroyed by the blast and i am inspired by their resilience and we have to draw inspiration from them as our city to be resilient once again and to get the resources to rebuild and i'm grateful to the red cross who opened an aid shelter for those displaced.
with that, turn me turn this over to the chief and answer questions. i think the message of today is we are going from relief now to resolve. to catch those folks and to rebuild our city and one more challenge in nashville's 2020 but we'll get through it and we're grateful to our first responders and never, you know, you see all -- once again, these officers running into danger to help save lives and injury. it's inspiring. and again, the gratitude of our community goes to the chiefs force and with that i'd like to turn it over to chief drake to comment a little more specifically about the hero wisdom, the great hero wisdom of the department. thank you. >> thank you, mayor cooper. mayor cooper stated, these officers' acts of heroism are tremendous. this morning they received calls for shots fired.
have no idea what they were responding to. once they arrived in the area, they heard an rv giving out a message. basically saying that it was going to detonate within a certain time frame and countdown would go on and then it was playing music and the countdown would start again. officers immediately began knocking on doors and evacuating residents here not knowing if the bomb was going to de g ting immediately or in the time stated. these officers didn't care about themselves and think about that. they cared about the citizens of nashville. they went in and we wouldn't be talking about debris that we have here but also maybe potential people. so with that said, the officers saved lives today and their heroism is to be noted. >> do you believe either the lyft headquarters or at&t data
center were at ttargets? >> we don't know the mowtive but following up. >> is there any timing chief, at all, why this happened christmas morning? anything to lead you to believe this day was chosen in particular for this to happen? >> we don't have anything at this time. we're following up on every lead we can. why christmas morning, no idea. it was a total surprise. when i was briefed this morning, i thought maybe it was going to be a propane explosion from an rv and it turned out to be an intentional act. we'll follow up on every lead and following up on tips that come in now so we'll continue our investigative efforts. >> have you found human remains in the debris. >> we found tissue we believe could be remains and we'll have that examined and then we'll be able to let you know from that point. >> [ indiscernible question ] >> i can't hear you?
>> do you believe it might be someone in the. a r.v. >> the r.v. was detonated and it was such a large explosion. there is matter all over the area down there so we'll continue to examine that to see if it is human remains. >> [ indiscernible question ] >> right now -- fatalities. >> human tissue? >> we believe. could be. to be for certain, we have to examine it and once we know for sure, we'll let everyone know but we're investigating it. >> have you received any information of threats leading up to the city in the coming days, anything to lead you to believe that this was something that was coming? >> we have not received any threats whatsoever. as total surprise as i said. when we get the call, when i got
the call this morning, i thought it was going to be a camper. someone was trying to keep warm. gas leak and explosion. as i got more updates, that's when i found out it was intentional. we had no prewarnings at all. >> what do you make of the timing of this being that there are no people out on the street at 6:00 in the morning and that it happened with the announcement playing in advance? >> yeah, i don't want to speculate but you would think that this person didn't want to harm people that maybe just wanted to destroy but we're not sure until we get further into the investigation. >> chief, can you talk about the 911 impact by this? several cities had their 911 systems knocked out because of this. do you think that was the relation here? the intention to knock out 911 services? >> we're not sure. we're following up. we're aware we did have some services go down and at&t went down for a little while. that's back up now. to say anything more would be speculation. >> i'm going to ask for that to
be last question for chief now. we'll ask chief from metro fire to give an update. >> okay. thank you. >> good evening. i know there is a lot of questions and unanswered questions that we can't answer right now but some of the things we do want to talk about when we talk about public safety and fire and police and office emergency management, the things that operate off the lift method and so currently right now we know we've done a sweep of the buildings to try to make sure we cleared, that there is no personnel that are in the buildings and we've done all the hazmat sweeps and all the things that you would imagine if it was a dirty bomb or something. now you have urban search and rescue teams to sure up the buildings and structural
engineers there to make sure again that the buildings are sound enough to actually be able to enter in and out of. so again, it's a lot of moving parts and i know there's a lot of questions that again, we're trying to answer but at this point, it's so many moving parts. again, we want to take our hats off to the first responders and the jobs that have been done in the city and especially right now with the infrastructure in the situation it is. all the partners in local, federal working together to make sure as the man said, we're a resilient city and will keep moving. thank you. >> do you know how many people were evacuated? >> that's a great question and working on that because the way units are designed and we're trying to get an accurate head count. what i can tell everyone, the red cross is partnered with us and we have mta or buses set up throughout the city so if there is anything that's displaced,
we'll take them to the east park community center and from there, we'll make sure they have a place to stay for tonight or for as long as needed. >> fair to say hundreds? hundreds? >> i would say many people that may be the place. i'm sorry, i won't put a number to it there are people that are displaced. >> can you speak to the structural integrity of the buildings downtown? is that part of the reason why there is a curfew for the next few days in case anything collapses? >> absolutely. so the office of emergency management we try to look at the overall view of the city and make sure everything is safe and working together, we know we had one building collapse due to the explosion and due to the age of the other buildings and then we had water was being actually displayed throughout the buildings and cold weather. we think the water department as well is making sure they got the water shut off but still, the
integrity of those buildings are in question so we're trying to make sure that we do have everybody in place and safety for all personnel. >> chief, can you real quick talk about what building was that that collapsed? >> i don't have that address, sorry. >> any business inside? residential? >> it was a building that actually housed across from the explosion, which above the -- it was a residential above so i can't really give you -- i'm sorry. >> all right. guys. that will be the last question for this evening. i want to thank you guys for coming out. we will be in touch with you with regular updates. again, thank you to mayor cooper, to chief swan and chief drake for being here and especially to those officers that we are so grateful for this evening. you'll hear from us again. all right? thank you. >> that was the latest from nashville, tennessee. 5:23 local time, 6:23 pacific. there was an earlier briefing as
well. if you were with us over the last 13 minutes, they don't have a lot of new news. one of the questions certainly out there, suspects. motive. and in terms of those who may have been involved, was there loss of life? there additional injury that we're unaware of at the moment? they were confirming three people injured and police officers very clear to say six of them that ran towards the scene of the crime and then the aftermath as we look at some of the pictures from during and after the explosion itself. let's bring in jim kavanaugh, retired atf special agent in charge and nbc news law enforcement manager and msnbc, former assistant director for counter intelligence. you know, let's start with this first question as we look at the new information that has come in so far, jim. you're there in tennessee.
what are you seeing and learning on the ground that you've seen so far? >> well, this is a massive blast, richard. it shook the city. there was a low ceiling. we had flight flurries last night in nashville and it shook the city. it was felt miles away. watching the video of it, this was a very large explosion, explosive device used in there. it could have been a blasting agent like ammonia nitrate. i haven't seen enough angles to be able to tell what type it was. sometimes those are indicators but it was very large. it was very planned. it was -- the recording to get people away tells us a little bit about the intent of the bomber. you know, you endanger people when you detonate a large and i imp viced explosive device.
we shouldn't go too far praising someone from trying to save lives. there was an effort by the bomber or bombers to get people away from the vehicle so this could be a spectacular suicide with a message to come that may be at the bomber's home or it could be not a suicide, maybe there is no body remains found, a victim, a homeless person, someone passing a pedestrian. we don't know. and this could be a message of look what i'm capable of, look what we are capable of. you better meet our demands or there will be more. that could also come with the suicide once you go to the residents of a person if there is a person that committed suicide in a spectacular fashion wants attention, wanted to showcase their capabilities and
go back and say there is more like me. i'm just the first to come. so those are possibilities. look. this is the tourist area of nashville. i worked. i was the special agent in charge. i worked here as an agent. i worked hear for years on and off in the assignments. i know the city like the back of my hand. i have been on the street many times. this is the end of the tourist loop. this place is crowded with tourists on any day of the week even christmas there would probably be people strolling on the sidewalk later in the day but not at 6:30 in the morning when it's 29 degrees. so there was a time picked here when the street was empty. so i think that's done purposely and goes along with the recording. you wanted to get in a spectacular place to get attention, the heart of a major american city and he or they,
and they wanted to push people back and showcase their capability. now, it may be because they wanted to kill themselves and go out like this. we had a bombing at the opri land hotel when i was in charge and a car bomb, a range rover a man blown out, spectacular event. that's the largest hotel in the east of the mississippi. not in las vegas. a big bomb. it was a suicide. and a spectacular suicide. the man trying to beat the life insurance. these things do happen that way and it could be that. but all the answers aren't in. i think the remains who do they belong to, special agents on the ground, detectives are trying to find out here is the question. is this van owned privately? is it rented? is it stolen? they have to put that together. who last had this r.v. and who is that person? that person may be a person who
cannot be interviewed because they are missing because they are dead. they were in the van or missing because some other activity. there is a lot of questions. it's coming together. i'm sure they will have a lot of answers by tomorrow. >> frank, motive suspect? what are you seeing from your point of view? >> richard, i know there is a lot of speculation and c conjunctico congestico conjecture on social media and in this environment, i understand why that discussion is happening but i want to tell our viewers that that kind of focus on motivation can be dangerously distracting for law enforcement and jim knows that the focus right now is all about evidence, data, following leads, getting information from the public and figuring out who did this, not so much why they did that and in my own experience, in bombing investigations, i
found that can be very districting if you go off on why because very often, the person who did this and the reason they did this will not make sense to us. but it makes sense to them, and i'm thinking back to i know jim knows this case a serial mail bomb case in the south that killed a federal judge, a civil rights attorney in savannah, federal judge in alabama. we had all kinds of conjuncture why but when we sat that individual down, he made no sense to us. before we start saying that this is some international terrorist group or some domestic terrorism group, let's not rule out the far greater percentage of probability that this is someone who is mentally unstable. this will play out. we'll see what happens. we'll see if this person is alive or dead but this person if not caught could do this again and might be trying to play with the police. 6:30 a.m. christmas morning
choosing not to injure people, warning people might be far more about what i can do in the future than what i could have done right now. >> great stuff there and as we get back to you, jim, 30 seconds, what do you make of the curfew? do you make of the picture of the class c motor home there? >> yeah, the curfew is just so they can process the bomb scene. it will take them the better part of a week just to process the bomb scene, to get in there -- they'll recover the componen component's of the device and premiere bomb, i was on that team and supervised the team and ran it from washington. i was in atf when the cases happen in frank. i know them well. that was a defendant a thtf cau
for a bombing. one of the chemoesists recogniz it. it will be solved and a lot of answers by tomorrow. >> we'll leave it there for now. jim and frank, thank you for your experience and your perspective on this as we learn new details in the breaking story, we'll get right back to it. now back to "dateline" in progress. >> to the door, didn't hear a thing but suddenly there was a man with his arm around my neck and a gun to my head demanding my purse. >> what is that feeling like? >> it didn't really register what was going on. so much so, that i guess i didn't have quite enough fear, i don't know, because i wrestled away from him and turned and faced him and realized this is for real. this guy has got a gun robbing me and he demanded again, my
purse, and i had my purse on this shoulder and my taco bueno bag and i gave him my taco bueno bag. i bet he thought what is this woman doing giving me her supper? she doesn't get it. so finally, the third time, he demanded with expletives my purse and i finally caught on and i reached off and i was standing close enough to him to have an arm's length to shove my purse into his chest and i shoved my purse into his chest and i said jesus save me and the bullet shot me right in the head and i went down. >> is it just happening so fast or do you realize i can't believe he's actually shooting me? >> it happened so fast that i didn't realize i'm assuming he shot me and turned and ran because i guess i blacked out.
i mean, there was a period of time that i didn't know what was going on. >> nancy doesn't know how long she lay unconscious on the garage floor. when she came to, the shooter was gone but she was not alone. >> i began to kind of come to and i thought, i think you've been shot. you're going to die. and then there was another voice and it was the voice of my heavenly father who is more powerful than a speeding bullet. and he said get up. get up. >> how much pain are you in? >> i'm in excruciating pain but it's more the pain of not to be able to get a breath and knowing i was simply gur gling and
spitting blood the entire time. i ended up belly crawling. >> nancy knew she needed help fast, but her cell phone was gone. it had been in her purse and that had been stolen so she crawled into her car in hopes of activating her car's emergency response system, but she couldn't get it to work. amazingly, she got on to her feet and walked into the house. >> i was able to turn off my house alarm, the presence of mind to come up with those numbers, that's only a god thing because i had been shot in the head. >> she went to the nearest bathroom when she turned on the light, she saw an absolute horror looking back at her in the mirror. that was when she called 911. >> tell me exactly what happened. >> did you still think you could die at that point? >> i didn't know if i would live. >> i've been shot, please. >> what's address, ma'am? >> i told her, please don't leave me. she said no, ms. howard, i'll
stay here with you until they come because anyone who is fighting for their life and has called 911 knows that they could die. they don't want to die alone. >> now three days later nancy was able to give police a more detailed decemb detailed description of the man who shot her. >> he had a strong chin with facial hair. he was wearing dark rimmed glasses and a dark baseball cap. >> could you see his eyes? >> i did look him in the face and i did look him in the eyes but i don't know how to describe what that felt like. >> did he just look blank? did he look evil? >> he looked intent on doing what he came to do. i would say he certainly had no pity, no emotion of doing to some homemaker what he was
doing. there didn't seem to be a presence of emotion or concern. >> did you say anything to him? >> i just said jesus save me when e fini finally figured out was going on. i don't recall saying anything to him. >> the detectives had something to work with but then their investigation developed a new and surprising twist. they discovered the cell phone frank handed over contained jaw dropping information. turns out frank had been keeping a secret. coming up. >> that was the big red flag when looking at everything. >> soon, that secret would come tumbling out to everyone he loved. >> my dad actually called me at work and said i got to tell you something. >> that's a hard thing to hear. >> it is. you know, a punch in the gut. it's like this is not what is supposed to happen. >> when "the carrollton plot" continues. o happen. >> when "the carrollton plot" continues. quit cold turkey.
we're portuguese? i thought we were hungarian. can you tell me that story again? behind every question is a story waiting to be discovered. this holiday, start the journey with a dna kit from ancestry. the investigation into nancy howard's shooting was in thor did stages when detectives had made a realization.
when they examined the phone, they realized frank wasn't the devoted husband he apaired to be. nancy's husband had been having an affair. >> we noticed on his cell phone there was several text messages to a contact in his phone identified as s tahoe cell. those text messages was clear from the content of the messages that frank was involved in an extra marital affair. >> there was more. photos that showed frank with the other woman. >> there was photos on his phone of frank and this female that we believe to be the person that was sending those text messages back and forth with frank. >> the detectives asked the fbi to find out more about frank's mistress. they learned she was a 40 something mother of two teenage daughters. her name suzanne. >> we were able to speak with her and confirm that frank was in fact with her on the night nancy was shot. he had originally told us he was
in california on business. >> that was the -- a big red flag when looking at everything. we got to take a harder look at frank and what is going on with frank because he didn't mention anything about this mistress. >> the detectives wanted to know if frank had any more secrets they should know about so they decided to interview his children. >> we had no idea that they were looking at my dad so seriously until, you know, we got in the room and they just kept hounding and hounding and hounding on my dad. it was like, you know, this line of questioning is concerning. >> they just started telling me something is not right and we think that before you talk to them any more, dad, we need to talk to a lawyer. >> why would they say that? >> because they've seen shows like "dateline nbc." they always suspect the husband so get a lawyer. >> though frank says that at the time he didn't think innocent people needed lawyers.
he hired one anyway. then he had a heart to heart with reaeach of his kids. >> my dad actually called me at work and said, you know, i got to tell you something. he said, the reason they're looking at me so closely is that i've been having an affair and i was like crap. like dad, come on. don't have affairs, you know. >> that's a hard thing to hear. >> yeah, it is. it's a punch in the gut. this is not what is supposed to happen, you know. >> you guys were the cleavers. >> we were the cleavers. it was like okay, this is not a good situation. >> there is never a good time to get caught cheating, but getting caught by police while your wife is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head has to rank as one of the worst. frank had to tell his family embarrassing details about his other life. the one he had been living in california with his mistress, suzanne. how did you meet her? >> we found each other playing
at a gambling table one night and that's kind of what started it. >> there was just an attraction you couldn't fight? >> yeah, that's -- i fell in love with her. i loved her. she brought out things in me and had a connection i never felt before. so it was very difficult time, very confusing, very stressful, very much a struggle. >> for his part, frank says he wasn't trying to hide anything from police. >> i knew there was evidence of the affair and i felt like it's going to be difficult but i felt like that nancy and i could somehow work through that. >> did you think at all well, the police are going to find this information, should i just tell them? >> no, i didn't think it was relevant to what happened to nancy. i didn't think that way. i don't -- you know, it never dawned on me to make that connection. >> frank knew he had to tell nancy about the affair before the police did. but because he was now considered a suspect, the cops
had asked the hospital to keep him away from nancy. now, one of the most delicate conversations of frank and nancy's married life had to happen on the phone. >> he was just broken apart, just broken apart, weeping to the point that i just almost couldn't understand him. >> a lot of crying, a lot of apologizing and, you know, telling her i'm sorry about the affair and that i'm going to make it right and i'm going to do whatever i can do and i want to do that. >> is that a bombshell for you? >> i was dumbfounded really. i was just dumbfounded. i'm like really? and i was -- i just -- i think there was a side of me that i didn't really even believe it. >> nancy has never thought of frank as the fa landering type but in height sigindsight, she r relationship changed in 2009
when he went to the work for the rich client. raylee made millions in the iraq war and made frank his chief financial officer and soon, nancy began noticing changes at home. >> it increased our lifestyle a bit. we were able to do more things, but it did begin to interfere. >> with your marriage? >> uh-huh. >> how did it change your marriage? how did it make it more difficult? >> there was a lot of travel and we became empty necessasters th year. i really missed my kids. i think he really missed his kids but i think he had his work to help fill that void. >> nancy says once frank even ditched her on new year's eve so he could be with new business associates. >> i blew a gasket.
>> you're on the back burner. >> i said okay, i'm going to counseling because if we don't get into counseling, we're going to lose our marriage. >> did he agree to go? >> and he went for a little while, and determined that he didn't feel that it was doing any good. >> now, as she recovered in the hospital, it was obvious to nancy why frank hadn't been interested in saving their marriage. her husband was in love with somebody else. >> i said where did you meet her? he told me. i said and how long has it been? he told me. >> three years frank told her, three years of lying, three years of living a double life. one in texas, one in california. frank wasn't proud of it. >> you're a preacher's son. you know better than that. >> sure, it was very wrong and, you know, i know it now and i knew it then. i knew going through it it was
just trying to figure out how to deal with it. >> while most men try to keep indiscretions private, frank howard's dirty laundry was part of a criminal investigation but the detectives say they were determined to keep an open mind. >> i think i told michael let's not get tunnel vision on this just because he has a girlfriend, you know, let's make sure we look outside and not just key on that as a possible motive or reason for the shooting. >> so the detectives went back to work examining every piece of evidence they had. it turns out the church surveillance tape would take their investigation in a whole new direction. coming up. >> clearly showed nancy arriving at the church as she's going into the parking lot, there is a silver vehicle following in behind her. >> had someone been stalking nancy? >> yeah, it was clear from the vitd o video she was followed. >> she's not a random target.
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>> reporter: detectives wall and turner were following all leads in their investigation into nancy howard's shooting evaluating and re-evaluating every new scrap and tidbit that came their way. take nancy's purse and its contents. after the shooting, they'd had her cell phone tracked and quickly discovered her purse in a nearby dumpster. >> there were still $11 and ten cents inside the purse, the cell phone, the keys. it appeared as if all of the contents of the purse were still there. >> reporter: but what really caught their attention was the fact that her driver's license seemed to have been removed and cast aside. >> that was the only item that was taken from the purse. it was at that point in time that i became suspicious. >> reporter: if the shooter didn't want nancy's money and credit cards, then maybe he'd planned to kill her.
>> why was the driver's license found separate from the wallet? >> i believe, i think you would -- would agree, that they pulled out the driver's license out of the billfold to make sure that they had gotten nancy howard and confirmed it with her driver's license. >> reporter: working on a hunch that nancy had been marked for death the detectives decided to take a closer look at the video from the security cameras at her church. >> the video clearly showed nancy arriving at the church. as she's pullin' into the parking lot, there's a silver vehicle that's followin' in behind her. she drives around to the south side of the church and parks. that silver vehicle parks a few parking spots away from her. >> could you make out the license plate? could you make out the people in the vehicle? >> no. the video wasn't clear enough for us to see the license plate. you could tell from the video that there was two occupants a driver and a passenger, in the front seat.
>> reporter: shortly after nancy enters the church, the silver car drives away, but returns just before the church service ends. then a big moment in the case -- the church cameras catch a glimpse of a possible suspect. >> the driver exits the vehicle and enters the church to use the restroom. his -- he was wearin' a hat and it was brought down partially coverin' his face. >> the driver comes back out and gets in the silver vehicle. and as -- nancy leaves the church service and gets in her car, she backs out and leaves the parking lot. and that vehicle follows her outta the parking lot. >> is this crystal clear to you now, that nancy was a target? >> oh yeah. >> oh yeah. >> yeah. it was clear from that video that she was followed, and that they came back to the church to wait on her to leave. >> it was an exciting moment, 'cause we've got a lead now. we know that she's not just a random target. it appears that there's something else going on here. >> reporter: something else indeed.
in fact, a fellow cop told them about a routine traffic stop, a month before, that suddenly seemed quite significant. it was in the early morning hours that carrollton police officers stopped a car about a mile from the howard home. >> so, how long you been in carrollton tonight? >> we've been trying to find my uncle's house for two,three, four hours >> okay. the reason i ask -- 'cause i saw you guys earlier. and i see you again, and it's -- now it's -- >> we were going in circles and circles and circles. >> reporter: there were two men in the car. they were a hundred miles from their homes in east texas. >> could you step out of the car, just for a second? i want to talk to you for a little bit. >> reporter: the driver was a 19 year old named dustin hiroms. according to the police, hiroms appeared to be high on something, possibly meth. initially he told the police that he'd come to carrollton to get money from his uncle. but seconds later he said he was
looking for his step father. then he said his step father was in jail and that he was really looking for someone else. >> tell me who you are visiting here, 'cause now i'm confused. you said uncle, and then you just said -- >> his name is john, okay? >> okay. >> we always called him john, that was it. >> so john's a friend of the family? >> yes, basically. >> reporter: john? that's a name you'll hear later in this story. but at the time it meant nothing to the officers. >> we're not -- we're not tryin' to cause no problems, ma'am. >> reporter: the whole thing might have been forgotten except for this -- at one point ---hiroms blurted out that he was a hitman involved in a plot to kill a carrollton woman. at the time, it sounded like another crazy story from a drug addled teenager. police looked into it anyway, but they couldn't pin it down. hiroms was booked on minor charges and released. weeks later nancy was shot. >> once the incident occurred on august the 18th where nancy was shot -- it really -- kinda tied those two things together.
>> reporter: police wondered if dustin hiroms and his buddy in the car were tied to the shooting? if nancy could pick either of those men out of a photo lineup, the detectives figured it would be case closed. >> are you thinking she's gonna be able to id one of these guys immediately? >> oh yeah. if we could get the shooter identified, i mean, that's over half the battle right there. >> so you show her the photos. and? >> she wasn't able to identify anybody from the photo lineups. >> was that a letdown? >> yeah, but it's expected. >> are you thinking still, she -- it still could be them, she might've just gotten it wrong? >> oh yeah. they -- just because she didn't identify 'em -- that wasn't -- for us to change direction, go anywhere else. we're still on the trail of those two. >> reporter: but just as they were beginning their hunt for dustin hiroms the investigators got a call. as luck would have it there was someone over at the county jail who claimed he had the inside story of the shooting.
>> stated that billy johnson an inmate wanted to speak with us about the shooting. >> the detectives were intrigued and set up a meeting at the county jail. >> for the record you asked to speak with us? >> his wrap sheet showed he was a career criminal. a reputation he didn't mind discussing. >> i don't claim to be tough and bad. i'm mean. i'll hurt you. >> if he was mean, he was also calculating. police would soon learn whatever tale he had to tell could be theirs. for a price. >> it was two of them. >> he provided a lot of information that she shouldn't
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>> detectives got a lead from an inmate who claimed he knew the real story behind the crime. billy earl johnson. the cops knew he was a tough guy from east texas. an area 90 miles from karl ton. home to the pineny woods. he was the ring leader of a colorful crew. many of them petty criminals. related to billy by blood or
marriage. >> >> they're certainly a strange cast of characters. but, you know, they're east texas folks and some people might depict 'em as -- as the hee-haw gang. >> reporter: a gang that was just getting by in a region that's struggling to make it. bryan turner: >> there's a lotta drugs, lotta methamphetamine out there. you know, if someone makes money out there or gets -- has extra money, they just hand it out to each other. >> reporter: at his meeting with investigators, billie earl was a man on a mission. he wanted to cut a deal and fast. >> i'm 49 years-old. i done been to the pen a total of 15 years. >> mhm. >> i got grandkids i want to spend the rest of my life with. i want to be free and i want out this weekend. >> reporter: billie told the cops he knew things about the shooting that they did not, including the identity of the hit team. he played hardball even as he mixed his metaphors. >> i got the big ace in the hole and i got the ball in my court on this and if y'all want this murder, this attempted murder solved, y'all need to work with me cause i ain't -- playing.
y'all want it, i'll give it to you in a -- golden basket. >> reporter: but if the cops didn't want to play, then billie earl was going to zip it. >> i'm not giving up nothing until i got something solid on my end. >> okay >> i'll die with it. >> he thought he was in control. >> 'cause he was sitting on an important piece of information? >> oh, yeah. and so i -- you know, i told him, "i can't go to the d.a. with you just sayin' this. you gotta provide some information." >> reporter: so billie did. he was in jail on drug charges the night nancy was shot. but he told investigators he not only knew who ordered the hit on nancy, he knew how it went down. >> there was two of them that done it. one that was driving, pick 'em up, and one that pulled the trigger. now which one drove and which one pulled the trigger, i don't know. but i know both of 'em. >> reporter: billie told the detectives he thought the murder for hire plot began sometime around 2009. >> i was laying on couch and the phone rang. >> reporter: a stranger was on the line. >> how he got my information from them, i dunno. >> reporter: the stranger said his name was john. >> he said you don't know me, told me his name, said, "i don't
know you but i was told you might be the one to do a job for me." >> reporter: the job, kill nancy howard >> he wanted it done as an accident so it wouldn't come on him. like a carjacking or a purse-snatching. >> reporter: "john" was a man of means, he told the detectives, who drove a lexus and communicated with a disposable drop phone. >> see that number right there? >> 1764? >> that's john's contact number if he's still got that phone. >> that's how you called him? >> yep. >> he had it memorized. and so he provided the -- the whole phone number, which was that 1764 number. >> reporter: billie knew more. he could describe nancy's car. >> she ain't had it long. it's brand new. >> okay >> it's dark blue. it's a four-door. it's like it's got a hatch back. >> he's providin' a lot of information that he should not know. >> so you're buying it? >> oh yeah, we're buyin' that he knows a lot about what's goin' on and that he's involved in this. >> i don't think this woman deserved what happened. >> no. she sure didn't. but if --
>> and she deserves a little bit of justice. >> yep, and she'll get it. but i -- i want -- i want my back scratched too. >> maybe not from you. >> i want my back scratched too. >> reporter: billie told the cops he never intended to follow through with the hit. >> i'm not going to go kill nobody. >> reporter: instead he was going to play john. take him for as much money as possible. and for more than two years, that's just what happened. >> how many conversations have you had with john regarding this being done? >> numerous. >> more than ten? >> yeah. >> more than twenty? >> fifty, sixty. >> reporter: detectives say it wasn't just billie playing the john game. members of billie's crew were at it as well and the cops already knew one of them. >> his name's john. okay? we always called him john, that was it. >> reporter: remember dustin hiroms? he was the young man pulled over a month before nancy was shot. he spun a crazy story that night about being a hitman. turns out dustin is billie's stepson.
maybe his story hadn't been so crazy after all. coming up. >> could the gang hold the key to the case? >> she didn't do nothing wrong. >> he started laying out the whole thing. with your farmer's policy perk, new car replacement, you can get a new one. (customer) that is something else. (burke) get a whole lot of something with farmers policy perks. ♪ we are farmers. bum-pa-dum, bum-bum-bum-bum ♪ we look at what you've saved, what you'll need, and help you build a flexible plan for cash flow that lasts, even when you're not working, so you can go from saving... to living. ♪ let's go
>> reporter: detectives wall and turner headed for east texas immediately after hearing details only an insider could know about the nancy howard shooting. their informant was billie earl johnson, he was the patriach of an east texas family --he claimed he'd been involved in a plot to kill nancy. wall and turner wanted to talk to those family members -- starting with billie's stepson dustin hiroms. billie earl--didn't seem to think much of him. >> he's so stupid, he didn't know how to put antifreeze in a pickup truck that dude --
nothing%-- don't know nothing about nothing. >> reporter: dustin hiroms, remember, was the young man pulled over in nancy's neighborhood a month before she was shot. >> his name is john, ok? >> ok. >> we always called him john, that was it. >> reporter: the detectives found dustin staying with friends in a trailer. >> we were able to locate him, get him in custody and then for the next probably two and a half to three days, bryan and i spent talkin' to dustin. >> you're a good kid. got yourself messed up in a little thing, but you're a good kid. >> what was that like? >> the first night, of course, he was on meth, he was pretty upset. >> reporter: and so it was dustin --scared and strung out -- who provided the detectives with new details about this man named john. a man who wanted nancy howard killed --and wasn't shy about suggesting how it could be done. >> she told dustin that he wanted nancy-- to be robbed while she was stayin' at the hotel in grapevine. >> and he wanted it done with a baseball bat. >> reporter: john provided a
photo of her --details about her schedule and even suggested nancy be killed while scrapbooking with friends. >> she didn't do nothing wrong. she's a christian woman, dude. that's it. you know? >> who shared with you that she was a christian woman? >> reporter: dustin told the detectives john liked to spread his money around. >> he started-- layin' out the whole thing regarding his stepdad, billie johnson -- his mom -- meetings with john large -- sums of money bein' transferred. he started throwing out some big numbers and we asked him, "you know, those sound-- you know is that bs?" he goes, "no," 'cause he was talkin' right in the millions. >> sounds hard to believe? >> yeah. and so he -- he lays out -- including his grandmother -- receivin' money-- billie's other-- children that were involved. >> reporter: soon --dustin says members of the johnson clan were calling "john" whenever they needed money. >> when they're in jail and can't get bonded out, then he
decides -- short story, that he decides, "well, i can do this," and started gettin' all this money. >> cause it's the atm machine --. >> exactly. >> exactly. >> reporter: at one point, dustin said "john" gave him $24,000 to carry out the hit -- money that he promptly spent on meth or gave away. >> he had $8,000 blow off his car, he told us, at a church parking lot. >> didn't care? >> i said, "did you go back and get it?" "nah, i didn't --" go, "are -- are you kiddin' me?" >> cause -- >>"no, i-- i'll get more." >> reporter: as the investigators dug deeper -- they learned that nearly a dozen people from east texas knew about the plot to kill nancy. charlie louderman was one of them. charlie louderman jail tape. >> so, have you heard about the shooting in carrollton? louderman: yeah, i heard about it. everybody else heard about it, and do you know who's involved with it? >> yeah. >> who's that? >> billie earl johnson and, uh, mr. john. >> mr. john. so, you know mr. john? >> yeah--i know mr. john. >> reporter: charlie louderman --was one of the few who was not related by
blood or marriage to billie earl johnson. >> billie earl johnson. he's one mad son of a bitch. >> reporter: charlie --who started out as a bodyguard for billie earl --says billie and "mr. john" tried to get him to shoot nancy howard. >> this f----- man , he tried to get me to kill that woman. >> did he really? ' cause he -- >> do you want the truth? >> yeah, i want the truth. >> you got that recorder on? yeah. >> i gotta have the truth. >> yeah, you're g------- right that son of a bitch tried to get me to kill that woman. >> reporter: now out of jail, charlie told us that sometimes john transfered money between bank accounts. and sometimes john met charlie and billie -- and handed over packages of cash. at a hamburger joint or at a gas station. and john was always pressing them to get the hit done. >> i mean he was 'hey do you think you can get it done now? what's the chances. you know, 'where are y'all at?' >> billie would tell him, "you know, hey, we're-- we're about an hour away. we'll call you when we get close." "okay, well, call me when you've got confirmation. you know, i want-- i want this
thing done." and i was like, "damn, what did this lady do?" >> reporter: as long as "john" was willing to pay--charlie-says billie and his family were willing to talk about killing nancy. and every time the hit didn't happen, john wanted to know why. billie was the master of outlandish excuses. >> he had a brain tumor. he had seizures. he had spells. he'd done too much dope. the neighbors were home. >> he bullshitted him just as far as he could take it. >> and john would buy it hook, line and sinker every time. >> reporter: as far as charlie could tell -- mr. john was a fool who had more money than common sense. >> i told him-- "you're either-- you're a cop, or you 're-- you're a chicken shit. because who would pay $400,000 -- what did this woman do that -- that you wanna pay $400,000 to kill her? it'd be a lot cheaper to kill her yourself.
>> reporter: mr. john's big money scheme to kill nancy howard was an economic bonanza for east texas. according to charlie, billie earl couldn't seem to spend that money fast enough. >> vehicles for his children, all three of 'em. a car for his mother. three or four four-wheelers, a couple go-karts for the grandkids. a ski boat. >> he bought me -- a riding mower, a four-wheeler -- numerous assault weapons -- just anything he wanted. >> reporter: and so for more than two years the murder plot bankrolled by john killed nothing but time. >> they didn't follow through with it 'cause they wanted more money // andrea canning >> they have been called the hee-haw gang. but -- they were very valuable to you, all of these characters >> it would've been a tough case if we only had one or two of them as witnesses. but when we have this number of people involved, someone either is telling the truth, or someone handed out a script to all these people with all the information. 'cause it was all the same information.
>> reporter: the east texas crowd was canny enough to document their dealings with the mysterious mr. john. they even had a picture of him in his fancy car. wait till you see it -- it's a stunner. coming up. >> who was this infamous mr. john? it's the biggest twist of all. >> i was in disbelief. it was so farfetched. super emma just about sleeps in her cape. but when we realized she was battling sensitive skin,
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three people and it was intentional. the blast caused communication outage that is took down police emergency systems and briefly shut down the airport. authorities released this photograph of the suspected vehicle and investigators say human remains could be in the debris field. mayor issued a state of emergency tonight for the area. and a curfew until 4:30 p.m. sunday. we'll have more later. now back to "dateline" extra. >> reporter: throughout the piney woods of east texas--detectives turner and wall heard the same refrain. a man named john was paying top dollar to rid the earth of a church lady named nancy howard. to hear the east texans tell it, "john" was a murky blend of money and murderous intent. but a picture snapped by one of the locals of the man they called john, made everything crystal clear. john was frank howard.
>> there is a photograph of-- frank howard sitting in his gray lexus. and in the foreground of the picture, billy johnson's sitting on his motorcycle. >> reporter: he may have been frank to his friends and mr. john to the east texans, but in truth he was both. his full name was john. franklin. howard. >> john franklin howard. >> reporter: a.k.a. frank? frank, frank, yeah. three names, for a man who'd evidently been living three lives. one with his wife in carrollton, one with his mistress, in california and a third one with the east texas crowd. >> it was a surprise just based on bein' the beaver cleaver family, bein'-- involved with the church. it was unusual. >> reporter: so, eight days after nancy was shot, the detectives returned to the scene of the crime. this time they had a warrant. >> and i'm sitting there, watching tv, and - and - and -- working.
and-- and the police show up at the-- at the door to arrest me. and that was very-- i've never exp-- i-- you know, i have no clue what's goin' on and what's happening. >> reporter: they just put you in the car and-- and took you to the station? >> yeah. yeah. >> reporter: the charge, solicitation for murder. frank's children were in shock. their father may have had an affair, they thought. but hiring hitmen? that made no sense. >> it's a very specific type of evil person that tries to kill their spouse. and my dad is just not that person. you know, having an affair is a human mistake. trying to murder someone is not human. no human would do that. and i'm sorry, my dad is a human-- humans make mistakes. >> it was such a huge leap-- >> 25uh-huh >> --to what they were accusing him of. and i had never felt like my dad hated the kids enough to do that to our mom, and he never hated
my mom, never talked poorly about my mom enough to do that. track 906 >> reporter: even nancy refused to believe that her husband of nearly 30 years, could have orchestrated a plot to have her killed. >> well, you know, i was totally in shock. this is so far from anything, first of all, that i ever dreamed that i would be involved in. but second of all-- i mean, it-- it all came at the same time. i'm shot. and then, i find out my husband has been having a three-year affair. i was in disbelief. it was so farfetched. >> reporter: his friends felt the same way. in fact, frank was so well regarded in carrollton that his friends offered to post his $1 million dollar bond. at his bond hearing, witness after witness testified to his character and sterling reputation. even denton county prosecutor, jamie beck, was impressed. >> people from his church, people from his community, clients, current clients came
forward and packed the courtroom for a bond hearing, which is just unheard of. >> they took the stand. they-- you know, just sang his praises on what a good guy he was. >> reporter: though he quickly bonded out of jail, the investigators were convinced frank howard was behind the attempt on his wife's life. not only could they prove he'd been having an affair and that he'd paid hundred's of thousands of dollars to a bunch of make- believe hitmen. they also had a picture of him meeting with one of them. still, a crucial element for solving this case was missing. >> we're still knee deep in the middle of this. we don't have the shooter identified. >> reporter: and everyone that we have arrested up until this point, we can only confirm that they're involved in a solicitation, to have nancy killed. which is not to say that they didn't get some useful hints from the east texans. dustin hiroms, he gives us the name of michael speck. and michael speck is billie johnson's nephew. the investigators zeroed in on
that name michael speck. a search of jail recordings of billie earl johnson's phone calls soon revealed a surprise. not only did they hear billie earl talking about somebody named michael. they also heard another familiar voice. it was the voice of frank howard. >> i can get out of here, which will take about a month-- to get out of here. but i need some money. >> well, that's part of my problem. i mean, what-- what-- what happened to michael? i gave him a bunch of money. >> how much you give him? >> and-- i don't even know anymore, it's been so long. >> did you give him 20? >> uh, at least. >> it's clear from those phone conversations at the jail that frank's directly involved in, in orchestrating this. >> michael's got everything i had left. and he said -- he said he could take care of everything. >> reporter: even though the police were sure michael speck was one of the men in that silver car, they had no idea who the other man was. then a few months later, a call
out of the blue provided the break they'd been looking for. the caller sounded credibile because she knew details that only the shooter and nancy would know. for instance, in a flustered moment nancy had handed her bag of food to the shooter. >> my ears perked up, and i felt like she had some pretty good information about who was responsible for shooting nancy. >> reporter: the caller led them, eventually, to the alleged shooter. his name was also michael, michael lorance. he and speck had been prison cellmates. this is like six degrees of separation. >> it is. >> reporter: everyone in this case. >> yeah, and-- and all the puzzle pieces were startin' to come together for us. >> reporter: the cops were finally able to put both michaels in that silver car on the night nancy was shot. it would now be up to a jury to decide whether frank howard had paid them to kill his wife. co coming up. the case begins and the witnesses are colorful.
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>> reporter: in the months after nancy howard was shot in the face and left for dead she tried to move on. she divorced frank and found comfort in the sheltering embrace of her faith and family. >> isn't that pretty? >> reporter: she even enjoyed happy moments when the shooting was almost forgotten. like the day her youngest daughter got married and frank walked brianna down the aisle. >> it was very special that he was able to do that. and for me, there was, you know, never a doubt in my mind that my dad would be walking me down the aisle. >> that's awkward is an under statement. dad is accused of trying to have mom killed.
>> i told my children i wasn't going to be a bitter woman. and her wedding was a joyful time. it was peace and fun. i have the memory. >> and we actually had a very good time. it was a very joyful time. >> i >> i i can remember walking with him and then saying, "well, we ended up doing this together after all, didn't we?" >> reporter: hard to imagine? not really if you remember that frank and nancy always put family first. for a long time nancy refused to believe the worst about frank. as the months passed, she had a change of heart, though she kept hoping she was wrong.
>> i believe he had relationships with the kind of people who would do something like this. but i am going to let the jury make the decision on whether he called the shot. >> reporter: so you're not ready to say he ordered -- >> i'm not ready to say that. >> reporter: -- the hit. denton county prosecutor jamie beck was ready to say that and a lot more. >> i try not to get too personally involved, so to speak. but i did not like him. i did not like the good versus evil aspect to him and the manipulation that i felt. you go to trial. nancy still isn't sure 100% that he called the shot. did that worry you? >> i felt the evidence would speak for itself. it really wasn't the lynch pin of the case.
that she 100% believe in the guilt. >> reporter: in early august 2014, frank howard went on trial for attempted capital murder. prosecutors started with nancy's 911 call. >> lord jesus, help me. oh, my god, help me. oh, lord jesus, help me. >> reporter: it was an emotional opening punch. one that left frank visibly shaken, as did nancy's testimony about her injuries and overwhelming feelings of betrayal. >> i was married to a man named frank howard. for the majority of our marriage, i was married to frank howard. but when john walked in the door, he started taking over. frank was a man who was loving and kind. he had integrity. john, john was about himself. >> reporter: prosecutors laid out their theory. john, a.k.a. frank howard, had hired a hitman to kill his wife. but for more than two years, he'd ended up throwing money at one potential killer after
another to get the job done. this group of characters, some people have even called them "the heehaw gang." >> yes. >> >> reporter: very questionable characters. >> absolutely. >> reporter: with long rap sheets. how do you get the jury to believe what they're saying? >> when you're going to go out and hire a hitman, you're not gonna hire a good person off the street. you're going to hire a criminal. you're going to hire somebody with a seedy past and that's willing to do that job. >> reporter: if orange is the new black, this was a fashionable crowd. on the stand, the witnesses from east texas corroborated each other's stories. they testified they'd received money from a man named john to kill his wife. they had communicated with john by calling his drop phone. and each of them said that john and frank were one and the same. charlie louderman says john didn't seem happy to see his east texas friends again. >> he didn't want to see me there. he didn't like that.
he was twirling his pen. pop, pop, like a principal going to give me some licks. >> reporter: charlie told the jury about seeing vast sums of money change hands. >> sometimes it'd be $5,000. sometimes it'd be $80,000. i counted $83,000 on my bedroom floor. >> reporter: investigators were able to follow the money on frank's computers. they found wire transfer receipts that added up to more than $750,000. >> it sounds hard to believe that frank, the accountant, the meticulous numbers guy, is just throwing around money? and not only throwing around money, but they're documenting it. they're wire transfers. it's hard to believe. >> right, at first, it was all cash, and i think he just kind of got tired of having to go and meet. and once he started with the wire transfer, i think he probably realized that, you know, it's done. might as well keep going. and i think he just kept trying to get a solution to his problem by just throwing more money at it.
>> reporter: but none of the east texans who testified about getting that money had actually done the job they were paid to do. though some have been charged in this case, none has been prosecuted yet. still, jamie beck and her team wanted to link frank to the men who they believe actually shot nancy, the men in the silver car. first they tried to establish that frank had paid the alleged driver. they played a snippet of the jailhouse call recorded a few weeks before the shooting. >> and so i basically, you know, gave michael every -- i said, "i'm all in with you buddy." because, i said, "i don't know what else to do." >> you can't. >> so i went all in with him. >> reporter: even more incriminating, prosecutors said phone records proved frank was communicating with the alleged driver the day of the shooting. as for the alleged shooter, the other michael, the prosecution called a witness who testified he confessed to her the night nancy was shot. jamie beck summed up that testimony. >> he does a full out confession. "i've murdered someone.
i shot a woman in the forehead in her garage. took her food and her purse, and then we dumped everything on the way back." >> reporter: both the michaels have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial in this case. as for motive? the prosecutors told the court that was as old as time. frank had another woman. and this was no casual fling. they presented evidence of frank's devotion -- the flowers, letters and cards he sent to suzanne leontieff when he wasn't with her. police also discovered frank had spent enormous sums of money on his mistress. >> i think the figure that he had given suzanne was $1.9 million. ultimately we discovered that they had purchased a home together in california. they had purchased a condo in lake tahoe together. he had given her $500,000 in cash. and so it's my understanding that she's a dental hygienist, and i'm not sure what her salary is.
but she was certainly living a life with a lot of money from frank. >> reporter: the pictures police found of suzanne on frank's cell phone show a happy couple. but suzanne had grown tired of being the other woman. she began putting pressure on frank to get a divorce. the police found a letter from frank, dated december 2011, eight months before the shooting, pleading for patience. one of the lines from one of those letters was, "all i know to do is to get things done and hope you're still around." what do you think he meant by "to get things done"? >> well, you would notice he never says divorce in some of the paperwork, never talks about divorce, as far as i know. >> suzanne is certainly pressing him to get divorced and to be in california. >> reporter: so what do you think he meant by "to get things done"? >> i think he meant follow through with killing nancy. >> reporter: in this text sent a few months before nancy's shooting, suzanne wrote -- "i'm so sick of being alone. you need to file by this friday or move on.
i have waited long enough." prosecutors said that affair was frank's motive. so all eyes were on suzanne when she took the stand. >> she believed that he was in a loveless marriage. that he was basically separated from his wife, but living under the same roof for convenience sake, but in separate bedrooms. >> reporter: how important was the mistress's testimony, suzanne? >> you know, i don't think suzanne had any kind of knowledge about any of this. i don't think she knew that there was a murder for hire plot. i don't think she knew about any association with criminals. i think suzanne fully believed, just like everybody else around frank. they take him at his word. and they believe him. >> reporter: prosecutors told the jury that, for a family man like frank, divorce was not an option. but, they argued, murder was. >> i mean, it didn't have to happen. a divorce was the solution. >> reporter: frank was with suzanne in california on the day nancy was shot. even so he still found time to send an e-mail to his wife.
prosecutor jamie beck read it to the jury in her closing argument. >> "i know you have a busy day today." because he knows her schedule he's provided it to the two michaels. "so i will try to call you sometime today. i love you and can't wait to get home to you." that's sick. that is sick. he wanted to get home to her casket. that's what he wanted to come home to. >> reporter: on august 18th, 2014, two years to the day after nancy was shot, the prosecution rested. now it was the defense's turn to convince the jury that all those east texans were lying and that frank never paid anyone to kill his wife. coming up. >> you see all this money going out to the shady people. he was being blackmailed. >> the defense comes out
finding the right words can be tough.n it comes to autism, finding understanding doesn't have to be. we can create a kinder, more inclusive world for the millions of people on the autism spectrum. go to autismspeaks.org. >> reporter: frank howard was a confident man, or at least he claimed to be when he spoke to us a few months before his trial began. did you have anything to do with your wife being shot that day in your garage? >> no. no, i did not. i absolutely did not.
>> reporter: nevertheless defense attorneys jerry cobb and ricky perritt knew they had their work cut out for them when they rose to frank howard's defense. >> the state put on a large, large amount of evidence. they showed a lot of money being transferred, they showed the affair, they showed sympathetic pictures of the poor lady shot in the head when she's at the hospital. >> reporter: powerful images to be sure. but the prosecution's case, they argued, simply didn't make sense. >> it was really incredible to hear the allegations that a man would have spent the kind of money that they said was spent in order to have someone shot. and particularly in light of the fact that when you saw all the people that were saying he paid them, looking at the kind of people they were. >> reporter: so the first line of defense was don't trust anybody who wears prison garb to court. >> i just believe that when the jurors look at the case, and they see how these people are liars, they're criminals, they're drug users, that they won't lend any credibility to --
and if they don't believe those people, they can't convict him for attempted capital murder. >> you got all these people who supposedly got hundreds of thousands of dollars to kill somebody, and they're not even being prosecuted. i mean, it makes no sense. >> reporter: not only that, but the defense argued some of their stories were just too fantastic to be believed. take one from charlie louderman. he testified that some of frank howard's cash had come from the middle east in body bags. it was money that literally reeked of death. >> some of it had hair with blood stuck to it. some of it had burn marks on it. and i said, "what in the hell is that awful damn smell?" and billie looked at me and said, "you know, that's how we're getting that money in here, is on dead bodies coming from kuwait in the caskets." >> reporter: the defense called that claim outrageous. >> just crazy things, crazy. $80,000 or $100,000 in cash
coming back in the body cavities of dead soldiers from iraq. i mean, this man had crazy things. >> reporter: the defense attorneys not only challenged the credibility of billie earl and his crew. they told jurors the real reason frank howard was in contact with the east texas crowd boiled down to one word -- blackmail. >> you take a guy who's been a straight arrow all of his life, has a great reputation in his hometown, i'm sure it would bother him if the people at church knew he had an affair, knew he had a girlfriend, knew he went to las vegas, things like that. i think all those things would go into a reason for them to blackmail him and him to pay them money. >> reporter: his reputation was everything? >> sure, and his family. >> reporter: frank's daughter ashley agrees. >> you see all this money going out to all of these really shady people. you never really see any return. there's no action. so my belief is that he was being blackmailed. >> reporter: for the affair? >> i can't say what. my dad was a really generous person. maybe somewhere in there, you know, it was, "hey, give a guy a
second chance. help me out." and then it just snowballed into either threatening his family or telling about the affair. i mean, i don't know. so i think it probably started as a generous, you know, give grace to somebody, help another human, and became something way out of his control. >> reporter: according to the defense, frank stopped paying members of the johnson clan weeks before the shooting. and that, frank's attorneys suggested, could be the reason nancy was shot. do you think that this was payback to frank because the money train had stopped? >> you know, well, i believe it was something to get the money going again. i believe they were sending him a message, you know, "you're not going to quit paying us." >> very well could be that. and also, you know, they may not have really intended to kill nancy. you know, the guy's standing right there, he shoots her in the head. she's still conscious. if he's going to kill her, why didn't he shoot her again? >> reporter: frank did not take the stand in his own defense.
but all three of the howard children did. was it hard to take the stand in the trial, knowing what was at stake? >> definitely was, because, you know, i wanted to be there for my dad. and i wanted to do things and say things that gave a different perspective to, "he's not this man that you're talking about." he's imperfect, absolutely. but he's a good person. >> reporter: you could've been his best weapon, his own children, standing behind him. >> when we say that we support our dad, it's not a blind support. it's a well thought out support. and it's a reasoned support. and we've been able to separate the feelings about the affair from the feelings about his involvement in this criminal scheme. >> reporter: in closing, the defense attorneys urged jurors to ask themselves one question. did the prosecutors' theory of why and how frank howard plotted his wife's murder make any sense? >> where in the world has any evidence been told to you that divorce is unacceptible to mr. howard?
he's already had a divorce. he's been married once, you know that. look at the evidence and ask yourself if that's what that means. >> and i do not believe, as reasonable people, you can convict someone on the testimony of the kind of people they brought in here that their house of cards has to be built on, and it starts with billie johnson and it ends with billie johnson. because i do not believe that's the kind of evidence in this country that we want to use to convict someone of a crime to deprive them of their liberty if they're convicted. >> reporter: the jury now held frank howard's fate in its hands. cosm coming up. children by his side. >> it was my dad all the wife. >> a wife still torn. >> i tried to keep my heart open. >> the man who seemed of rock solid character or this cast of characters. who would the jury believe?
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they'd once called themselves the beaver cleaver family. close, wholesome and picture perfect. if nothing else, john franklin howard's attempted capital murder trial proved that image was as dated as a black-and-white rerun. nancy sat on the prosecution side of the courtroom surrounded by her friends and family. and frank's supporters sat across the aisle behind the defense table. as for the children, when they were in the courtroom they almost always sat on their dad's side of the aisle. >> for me i was just very, you know, focused on the goal, focused on what we're here for. and it was my dad all the way. >> reporter: the tension and stress caused by the howard children's devotion to their father was at times etched on nancy's face. >> i'm trying to -- trying to understand. you have to understand they had continual contact with their father for the past two years.
and they, too, wanted to believe that their father was the same man. >> reporter: after ten days of testimony and a mountain of evidence, jurors might have been expected to be out for a while. >> has the jury reached a verdict in this case? >> reporter: but they weren't. >> yes, we have, your honor. >> and is that a unanimous verdict of each and every one of the twelve jurors in this case? >> yes, it is. >> please hand that to the bailiff. >> reporter: it had taken just 90 minutes of deliberation for the jury to reach a decision. >> we the jury find the defendant, john howard, guilty of the offense of attempted capital murder as alleged in the indictment. >> reporter: when you heard that word, "guilty," what's going through your mind? >> just complete heartbreak. but yet it was also peace because it was finally over. >> reporter: in a separate hearing frank howard was sentenced to life in prison. >> my gut reaction is, well, now we have to appeal. >> reporter: so you didn't even
let the guilty process? >> no, i mean, for me, i mean, that was the plan. not guilty, we move on. guilty, we appeal. there's no let's all cry and hold hands and be sad because dad is in jail for -- no. we're going to appeal. >> reporter: it's probably easier to cope that way, i would think. >> yeah, at first there's kind of shock. >> mm-hmm. >> and then it's like, you're just angry. you're angry that they didn't be as -- you know, you don't feel like they got the truth. >> you may be seated, sir. >> reporter: in the end, frank howard's appeals were denied. but even then this case was far from over. remember the michaels, the two men prosecutors say actually carried out the attack on nancy? in 2015 billie earl's nephew michael speck turned on his former cellmate michael lorance. in return for a reduced sentence speck testified at lorance's trial that michael lorance had been the trigger man. lorance was convicted of
aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced to 60 years in prison. he appealed and in 2017 a texas court overturned his conviction on the grounds that evidence introduced relating to the overall murder for hire scheme was misleading and unfairly prejudicial. lorance was retried, and this time a jury found him not guilty. but lorance isn't off the hook yet. the district attorney has decided to prosecute him for conspiracy to commit murder in the nancy howard case. he has pleaded not guilty. as for the money frank howard used to finance the murder plot and support his lavish lifestyle? turns out it was stolen from that wealthy defense contractor frank once worked for. some people might have a hard time wrapping their head around the fact that he was so haphazardly giving money out. >> yes. >> just freely giving it out. >> just freely giving it out. the only way i can explain that is when you don't earn the money, when it's not from your hard work and efforts, it has no value.
as a matter of fact, for the two years i called it his monopoly money. the money didn't have meaning to him other than how he could use it to manipulate people. >> reporter: in late 2015 an arbitration panel determined that frank howard had embezzled more than $6 million from his former boss between 2009 and 2012. frank was ordered to repay that money with interest. you went into this hoping there was a chance that maybe he didn't call the shots. >> right, i did. i tried to keep my heart open. >> reporter: so you have no doubt in your mind now -- >> absolutely. >> reporter: that frank called the shots on your attempted murder? >> absolutely. john called the shots. >> reporter: almost like an alter ego? >> yep. it is. >> i want to say john howard, you messed up, buddy. >> reporter: perhaps nobody knew john better than the east texas crowd.
charlie louderman in full finger wagging mode says john howard got what he deserved. >> you're smart and you hired an idiot to do your dirty work. >> reporter: charlie says he regrets he ever got involved with billie johnson and he's remorseful about what happened to nancy. >> i carried a lot of guilt over her injury with her eye because she just looked like a really happy lady in the pictures to me. and to john's children, i'm sorry, but your dad did it. you know. there's no getting around it. >> reporter: but even after hearing the evidence, john and nancy's daughters still believed their father was innocent. there are going to be people watching this saying you two girls are delusional. your dad was found guilty of trying to have your mom killed and here you are supporting your dad. >> i get that. but i would say those people that think that we're delusional
have not shared our experiences, they haven't sat down and they haven't gone to jail, sat behind that glass, picked up that phone and talked to the same man that they've been talking to for the last 28 years. and you can say all day long, oh, that poor girl, you know. she just wants to support her dad. let's be very clear. i think that justice needs to be served. i don't think it has been. and i think it's unfortunate that now we're all going to say we've gotten justice for my mom and that man is a terrible human being and the truth is there's no justice for my mom and now there's no justice for my dad. >> reporter: though the sisters conceded in 2014 that the family's bonds had been strained by this case, they insisted those bonds had not been broken entirely. do you hope that as time goes on, things can be healed with your mother? >> oh, absolutely. it's a very raw time. a big life event happened. a big change happened. so we're all having to process
what we feel and then come back together and really sort it out. >> reporter: the future for the howard family? >> we were a strong family then. we're going to be a strong family in the future. and those two are not going to look the same, but that's okay. we're going to figure it out. >> reporter: for her part, nancy says she has forgiven and gone back to her life. she's gone back to work as an administrative assistant and now goes by her maiden name, nancy shore. in the spring of 2017 nancy told her story in a book called "the shooting of nancy howard." >> deep in my heart, my heart is broken. i would have loved to have continued being the beaver cleaver family. i would have loved to continue being married to frank, because i loved that man with all my heart. and that man loved me at some
point, but it was obviously a change in who he was and is. she has a magnetic quality, dark, raven hair, the intense brooding look to her. you're on the edge of your seat because this speaks danger. it's just mayhem. >> it's the story binge watched around the world. the netflix series "evil genius." >> one of the most diabolical cases in criminal history. >> a bank robbery and bomb plot. >> this death trap was locked around his neck. >> horrifying.