tv Dateline MSNBC October 13, 2019 10:00pm-12:00am PDT
that is all for this edig of "date line extra" thank you for watching. . 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 said jesus save me. and the bullet shot me right in the head and i went down. oh, my god, help me. >> reporter: it came out of nowhere. a sweet, stay-at-home mom collapsed. >> it was very dramatic.
a very emotional time. >> reporter: her survival seemed like a miracle. >> i didn't know if i would live. >> reporter: was this a random crime or did someone want her dead is this. >> someone was out there. >> we were scared. >> reporter: secret number two, 1,600 miles away. >> it was snowballing. >> like a punch in the gut. >> reporter: and mystery number three, who would they turn out to be? >> it's like, damn, what did this lady do? >> reporter: 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. >> reporter: chaarrollton, texa just north of dallas, the
schools are good, golf courses got the landscape and churches are more ubiquitous than starbucks. >> there's not a lot of crime in the area. it's a good place to raise a family. >> reporter: but travel east a hundred miles or so, you enter the piney woods of east texas. jobs are not as plentiful here and some keep bonds bailsmen on speed dial. >> there's a lot of drugs there. >> reporter: and those two worlds collided in a most unlike live way. this is the story of that summer, when money seemed to fall like ticker tape on the piney woods and an affluent carrollton family experienced the kind of violent crime that always happened somewhere else. >> help me, help me!
>> reporter: i need you to call me immediately, your mom is in the hospital with a gunshot wound. and i'm like, i'm sorry, what? >> we look at each other, michael and i, and say we can't make this up. >> reporter: our story begins in august 2012. >> can you believe it? 100 degrees again this afternoon. >> reporter: it was the kind of heat that melts asphalt and has everyone searching the sky for some sign of mercy. but in carrollton, 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 probably in 2009. >> reporter: a wealthy client? >> yes. >> reporter: what did those come along with, those perks? >> he had his ownary planes. for the first time flying around in private planes and going to cowboy games.
>> reporter: as they say in texas, frank howard was standing in high cotton. >> i was still the same old guys but definitely doing some fun things as well. >> reporter: frank had come a long way since his days as a preacher's son growing up in south central texas. >> very conservative upbringing, no drinking, cussing. never been to the dance, school prom, never did that kind of stuff. but at the same time wanting to be just very down to earth, very honest and try to be the best person you could be. >> reporter: 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 bruin et with dazzling blue
eyes. his father named them in 2003 and two careers later they had their first child, a daughter named ashley. that was rough. there were complications? >> yes. she spent the first ten days of her life in the -- in the neonatal unit at the hospital. >> reporter: 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 kind of helped guide me through stuff and then obviously a wonderful mom and dad. >> reporter: eldest daughter ashley said whatever the howard family did, they did together. >> both our parents did choir in church. any time they needed a family it was like oh, get the hourwards,
they'll come and bring all the kids. >> we were always together, always a family. we went to all of their events. they were busy, always doing something. whether it was soccer or, you know, anything in the fine arts musically. >> reporter: you guys do almos sound like t"leave it to beaver" >> oh, yeah. >> reporter: but by 2012 those days were gone. frank and ashley were empty nesters. 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 mean, i'm proud of them but it was difficult. i mean, change is difficult. >> reporter: 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. like i said, a lot of it was work and she was home. >> reporter: still nancy had her church activity to fill her empty hours. that's where she'd been the evening everything changed for the howard family. it was a saturday night, august 18, 2012. >> you're out of town -- >> yes. >> reporter: you get a call that something horrific has happened to nancy, there's been a robbery at your own house? >> yes. i was just beside myself. i didn't know, you know, what was happening. >> reporter: and so began one of the longest nights of frank howard's life. coming up, a harrowing cry for
help. >> help me! >> yes, ma'am. >> reporter: terror of at the door. >> i was like our mother? that just makes no sense. >> reporter: almost like it wasn't real? >> yeah, like it wasn't real. >> reporter: when "dateline" continues. >> reporter: when "dateline" continues. no matter how you stay fit keep it light with light & fit's rainbow of delightful, protein-packed flavors. ♪ ♪ thenot actors, people, who've got their eczema under control. with less eczema, you can show more skin. so roll up those sleeves. and help heal your skin from within with dupixent. dupixent is the first treatment of its kind that continuously treats moderate-to-severe eczema, or atopic dermatitis, even between flare ups. dupixent is a biologic, and not a cream or steroid. many people taking dupixent saw clear or almost clear skin. and, had significantly less itch.
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>> reporter: after months of drouling temperatur broiling temperatures, the welcomed sound of summer rain came to carrollton, texas. but shortly before 8:00 that evening, the sound of a gunshot split the night. a 911 operator picked up the phone and heard a woman's anguished cry. >> oh, my god, help me. oh, jesus help me. >> reporter: many woman said she had just been shot in the head by an intruder in her garage. >> i've been shot, please. >> reporter: what's the address, ma'am? >> reporter: the caller was frank's wife, nancy howard.
she'd somehow managed to drag herself into the house and in spite of taking a bullet in the head, she was able to give critical details to the 911 dispatcher. >> how many people was it? >> can you stay on the phone? >> reporter: yes, ma'am, i'm going to stay on the phone until they get there. >> reporter: a few minutes later, police arrived at the home. remarkable as it sounds, nancy managed to open the front door for them. >> help me. help me! >> reporter: soon carrollton police detectives were on the case. >> it's incredible how she was able to give the information to the dispatcher about what had happened and then be able to wait for the police at the front door. >> reporter: this was a really bloody crime scene. >> there was quite a bit of blood, yeah. >> reporter: there was a small hole just above nanny's left
eye. she was struggling for breath and her vital signs were slipping. as they rushed her to parkland medical center in dallas, the police went over the crime scene. >> the suspects had taken nancy's purse. >> reporter: did you have any reason to believe when you arrived this was anything other than a burglary gone bad? >> we didn't have anything reason to suspect it was anything other than an aggravated robbery. >> reporter: what details did you get from that 911 call? >> nancy was able to give a suspect description, a white male wearing a black hat, was in his 20s. >> reporter: police officers could find no one in the neighborhood who had seen or heard anything. >> it hadn't been raining significantly. when it rains, people are inside. there's no witnesses.
we basically had nothing to go on. >> and precious little in the way of leads. we wonder if the shooting was part of a crime in the areawe can't rule it out. >> there had been some break-ins in the area. >> reporter: there were some home break-ins we were looking at to see if they may be rerelated to this offense. >> but there had not been any robberies where people were rocked at gun point for their property. >> reporter: a police officer got word to her eldest daughter, ashley. >> a close friend to my mom called me to say your mom is in the hospital with a gunshot wound. i'm sorry, what? >> reporter: that must have been the weirdest phone call. >> just the weirdest phone call. it was so confusing.
we just can't cross the hurdle of where she would have been to get shot. >> reporter: almost like it wasn't real? >> yeah, like it wasn't real. our mother? that just makes no sense. she's not the type of lady that's going to get shot. >> reporter: ashley finally reached her father in call and noticed i missed a call from my daughter. so i stepped outside and called her back. that's when i found out that something had happened. >> how does he react to the situation? >> he couldn't speak, couldn't breathe. it was like okay, dad, who is with you? you're not in good shape. >> okay, i'm going to drive to the airport. >> no, you're not going to drive. get someone to take you. >> we were trying to find flight out and figure out what to do and how to do it, when to do it.
>> it was 6:00 in the morning before frank howard could finally board a plane and head home. he could only imagine the nightmare that awaited him once he landed in texas. coming up -- >> my dad is like collapsed on the ground. he was in terrible shape. >> reporter: as doctors race to save nancy, her family races to her side. who could possibly be behind this? >> we were trying to figure out what happened and how it happened and we didn't have any idea. >> reporter: someone was out there. >> yeah. we were scared. >> reporter: when "dateline" continues. >> reporter: when "dateline" continues. who's got the time to chase around down dirt, dust and hair? so now, i use heavy duty swiffer sweeper and dusters. for hard-to-reach places, duster makes it easy to clean. it captures dust in one swipe. ha! gotcha! and sweeper heavy duty cloths lock away twice as much dirt and dust. it gets stuff deep in the grooves other tools can miss. y'know what? my place... is a lot cleaner now. stop cleaning. start swiffering.
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>> reporter: frank howard arrived home in dallas the morning after his wife was shot. his daughter, ashley, said he looked awful when she finally saw him. they drove to the hospital together, and by the time he got there, he could hardly walk. >> and i hear this crash and i look back, my dad had collapsed on the ground. he was in terrible shape. any time monitors would beep, he was jumpy, just terrible shape. >> reporter: was he in tears? >> yeah. >> reporter: tell me what happened the first time you saw nancy in the icu. >> it was a time. she was real drugged up but all the family and a lot of people from the church and stuff were there. >> reporter: doctors told the family the bullet had entered nancy's skull just above her left eye and traveled downward
through her sinuses and throat before it collapsed one of her lungs. she'd already had the first of many surgeries. she would lose one of her blue eyes, but luckily she seemed to have escaped serious brain damage. >> there's tubes, wires, lines. so even though you can say she's all right, it doesn't look like she's all right. and there's swelling and inflammation all over and things attached to her feet. it's hard to feel like, okay, this is okay and this is right. >> dave: it w . >> it was very traumatic to see that happen to her. very difficult, very emotional time. >> reporter: was she able to talk to you the first time you saw her? >> i don't believe. she had tubes in her throat. she was conscious so she had knowledge of who we were but she really couldn't talk or anything. >> reporter: while the family waited for some definitive word
on what happened, they filled the voight with their own. >> everybody was sitting around talking about it, trying to figure out what happened and how it happened and we didn't have any idea. >> reporter: someone was out there. >> yeah. yeah. we were scared. >> reporter: there. >> that was one of the things that had come up. i believe the detectives told us that there had been break-ins and there was somebody that fit the general description that they knew of that had participated in some break-ins in the area. >> reporter: the detectives were eager to talk to nancy. >> she's our only witness to this offense. weep just had the minimal suspect description at this time. so we felt it was important to confirm those details with her as soon as possible. >> reporter: while they waited for nancy to get well enough to speak, they called in frank hoping he could fill in some of the blanks.
>> reporter: can you update me on what he had confirmed she had actually not lost her left eye. but from there it will be. >> detective wall asked if frank new anyone who might want to hurt his wife. >> what i know about oh, no, no. absolutely not. >> in fact, everyone knew that nancy had a soft spot for nip with a sob story. >> nnsy can be real griffing. and open. >> it was not unusual, he said, for her to pick up a hitchhiker
or be in and i guess you needed money to get a hotel room because her car broke down. and. >> and just showed that. >> reporter: maybe that's what happened. a good-hearted woman befriended a dangerous stranger. they thought that was a. in to help someone at some point and they figured out this woman is an easy target. >> could your mom be naive when of? her willingness to see the good in everybody, it opened er he ws
out of town that night. >> doesn't seem like frank is able to and she knew that there rz in addition to turn over his cell phone, looks through like the p ren sfrags they go sfrat but you a of our investigative bleach, that's another step we would tack. in 7-0-0. at the hospital doctors were optimist bik neens's condition.
she was still in intensive care but making progress. there was every reason to believe that she'd be able to tell her own story in a day or two of coming up -- >> i it. >> i did look him in the face and i did look him in the eyes. no pity. no intent on doing. >> announcer: when "dateline" continues kentucky. >> zbrfrm many people taking
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biden promised today not to do any work for foreign firms p firms if his father is elected president. now back to dateline. w why -- surrounded by blinking and breathing machines. her daughter said she could communicate. >> she used to do sign language. she's over there doing something with the bottom of her hand. so we're like, she's doing something. and she'd beat her hand on the pillow to be like just darfur if
the and best of all, the breathing tube was removed. the howard family rejoiced. finally nancy could speak. >> do you consider it a miracle in. >> absolutely. there's no explanation except my heavenly father was there. >> reporter: what did she say to you when she finally was able to speak? >> it was just, you know, i love you detectives wall and turner wanted to know every last detail of that night. it began at nancy's church. >> i had a plan that evening to go to church to see one of my live children that i've known since she was born and surveillance cameras caught
nancy nancy's. it was just a very, very special time. and then i walked on out and got in my car and started heading home. >> reporter: it was 7:26 when nancy pulled out of the church parking lot. on her way home, she but it willly there was a m ris arm around my neck and gun to my head and head and feeling like i didn't really register, from sfrr from that this is for real.
zf zfrp. >> and then began to kind of try to come, too. 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 frmt but it's more the pain of not being able to get a dret and i was simply glurgling and smiling the blood the whole time, bare live able to breathe, trying to have the strength. and so i ended up belly crawling
from so she called into her car in hopes of activating her consider's emergency response system. pay mazingly she walked into the rouse. and i was able to turn off my athat's only a god thing. she saw an? ? >> i didn't know if i would live. >> what's the address, ma'am? >> i told her, i said plo if because anyone who is fighting
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it was still in erm stages when they made a surprising discovery. remember, frank had given them his cell phone. when they examined the phone, they realized frank wasn't the devoted husband he appeared to be opinion nancy's husband had been having an affair. >> we noticed on his crone fob there were several tex messages from the clear of the content of those messages that frank was involved in an extra mayor tad
never spoke of on this male that frank was to be to the pesh fbi to find out more about frank'ses if from frgs. >> here name -- suzanne lee on taf. that rang the. >> and that was a big red flag when looking at everything. we have to tack a hard look at it, sfrsht. we had no idea that they were looking a the my dad so seriously until, you know, we got in that room and they just
kept hounding and hounding and honding on my damn. if and before you talk to him anymore, dad, we twr chill from. >> they break that told the end there sfrrt the reason they've been looking at me so closely is i've been having an affair. and i was like exorganization crap. did and, come ondon't have affairs. >> that's a hard thing to happen
in the end. >> reporter: you guys were the claefrs. >> yeah, we were the claefrs and it was like this not a good situation. there is never a $ good time to get caught thaeting, but recovering rile whooil your house is begun actualed but once he's been living in california? >> we found each other basically playing a at gambling toubl one night and that's ibtd of. >> >> i knew there was evidence of the affair and i felt like it's going to be difficult but i felt like nancy and i could somehow work through that. >> did you think at all, well,
the police are going to find this, thtd i just tell vant? >> the sfwlrt and to keep him away from nancy. one p now one of the most delicate conversations of frank and layer reon. >> to the point where i almost couldn't even understand him. of sfrt and a lot of apologizing apologizingingoing sfwrouchg that. >> reporter: is sflo-- really?
and i just -- i think there was a lot of he if if the but in behindsight, she felt their relation from. >> he made millions sinning abouting if butle had 349. >> with my marriage. >> reporter: how did it change your marriage? how did it make it more difficult? >> there was a lot of travel and we became empty nesters that year. i really missed my kids. i think he really missed his
krids but i think he had his work to help fill that void. >> reporter: nancy says once frank even ditched her on new year's eve so he could be with his new business associates. >> and i just blue a gasket. you're on the back parn are andy went for a little while and determined he didn't feel it was doing any good. >> and now while praens bring sfwrrk and where did he told her
sufficiently tape would take their investigation into a whole new direction. coming up -- >> it clearly shows nancy arriving at the church. as she's pulling into the parking lot, a silver vehicle is coming in behind her. >> had someone been stalking nancy? >> we know from that individual something else was going on here "when dateline" continues. n here "when dateline" continues. are un relieving cream has 4 active ingredients to fight pain 4 different ways. get powerful relief today, with thermacare. how do you keep feeling your best all summer long? start with supporting your gut health. only activia has billions of our live and active probiotics. so, let's make this the summer of loving your gut. activia. love for your gut. thenot actors, people, who've got their eczema under control. with less eczema, you can show more skin.
so roll up those sleeves. and help heal your skin from within with dupixent. dupixent is the first treatment of its kind that continuously treats moderate-to-severe eczema, or atopic dermatitis, even between flare ups. dupixent is a biologic, and not a cream or steroid. many people taking dupixent saw clear or almost clear skin. and, had significantly less itch. that's a difference you can feel. don't use if you're allergic to dupixent. serious allergic reactions can occur, including anaphylaxis, which is severe. tell your doctor about new or worsening eye problems, such as eye pain or vision changes, or a parasitic infection. if you take asthma medicines, don't change or stop them without talking to your doctor. so help heal your skin from within, and talk to your eczema specialist about dupixent. ♪ 'cos i know what it means ♪ to walk along the lonely street of dreams ♪
>> if the shooter didn't want nancy's credit card and license, then maybe he planned to kill her. >> why was it found separate from the wallet? >> i believe they pulled out the license out of the billfold and confirmed it was nancy. >> reporter: the detects decided to take a closer look from the video at the skene iium. there's a silver vehicle following her behind. she drives around to the south side of the church and parks. that silver vehicle parked a few yards away from her.
>> would could you make out the license plate? ven nurt for you to you could tell there was two occupants "morning joe." >> the silver car returns just before the church self-ins. a. >> i guess he was wearing a hat and he was brought down and partially covering his pap if frch and the only time i follow her out of the parking lot. >> is this crystal clear to you now that nanny was a target? >> why and that they came back
on the wait on her to to dlit this are in there's something else going on here. >> elsie des indeed, a fellow could it was in the early morning hours that carrollton police officers stopped a car about a mile from the's home. >> been trying to find myself for it,nobody is because i saw you guys earlier and i saw you earlier and now you have it again. >> there were two men in the car. they were 100 files from th homes in according to the police, high rams appeared to it
be, it and seconds later he said he was looking for his steb father. then he said his step stare was a jail and that he was really looking for someone else. >> tell me who you're visiting here because now i'm confused. you said uncle and then you just said -- >> we always called himmion. >> so that's a name you'll hear a are. >> the whole thing might have been forgotten except for this, blurting out he was a balart lirt in the. >> hyra wr is it really.
police wondered if they could be tied to the shooting. i figured it would be case closed. >> reporter: are you thinking he's going to be able to irchlts d. one of these guys immediately? >> if we could get the shooter identified, that's how eerp p peter able to. >> is that letdown? >> yeah. that been rnk but just as they were againing their hunt, the investigators got a call.
as look would happen, there was someone over at the counselee jail who had the insighter to and johnson wanted to speak with us about the shooting. >> the detectives were intrigued and set up a meeting at the county jail. >> just for the record, billy, you asked to speak with us. is that correct? >> yes, sir. >> his full name was billy earl johnson. his wrap she'd showed he had a reputation for being mean and scrappy, a reputation billy didn't mind discussing. >> everybody's claiming me to be tough and bad. i'm mean. i'm going to hurt you. if you jump on me, i'm going to hurt you. >> reporter: if billy was mean, he was also calculating. police would soon learn whatever tale he had to tell would be
theirs for a. >> it and it may be a family affair. >> certainly a change case of articles. they're about to hit this case like a monster truck. if your dishwasher doesn't get thing completely dry. zwrsh. >> ashley home stores columbus day sale is in its final week. save up to 30% or get zero interest for six years in ady. but one thing we could both agree on
wifi up there? -ahhh. sure, why not? how'd he get out?! a camera might figure it out. that was easy! glad i could help. at xfinity, we're here to make life simple. easy. awesome. so come ask, shop, discover at your xfinity store today. nancy howard was shot point blank at her home, in tixas, and she survived. the police got a lead from an inmate who claimed to chb the real story behind the crime. his name, billy earl johnson. the cops knew he was a tough guy from east texas, home to the
piney woods. he was the ring leader of a crew, related to billy by blood or marriage. >> a strange cast of characters. some might depict them as the heehaw gang. >> a lot of drugs, and a lot of meth. they hand it out to each other. >> the meeting with investigators, billy earl was a man on a mission. he wanted to cut a deal and fast. >> 49 years old. i got grandkids, i want to be free. i want out this weekend. >> billy told the cops hugh knew things about the shooting they did not. including the identity of the hit team. he played hard ball, as he mixed his met fors.
>> i got the ace in the hole. i got the ball in my court. if you want the murder solved, you want t i will give it to you. >> if the cops didn't want to play. billy earl was going to zip it. >> i am not giving up anything until i have something solid on my end. i will die with it. >> he was sitting on important information. >> yes. >> i told him. i can't go to the da with you saying this, you have to provide information. >> so he did. he was on jail on drug charges the night nancy was shot. he knew who ordered it and how it went down. >> one drove, which one pulled the trigger, but i know both of them. >> billy told the detectives he thought the murder for hire plot began around 2009.
>> a stranger was on the line. >> he got information from them, i don't know. >> the stranger said his name was john. he said, you don't know me, i don't know you, i was told you may be the one to do a job for me. >> the job, kill nancy howard. >> hemented it done, so it couldn't come on him. like a carjacking, purse snacking. >> john was a man of means, who drove a lexus, and commuted with a disposal drop phone. >> that is john's contact number, if you still got the phone. >> that is how you called him. >> he had it memmorized. he provided the phone number, the 1764 number. >> he could describe nancy's car. >> it is brand new. it is dark blue, four doors, like a hatch back. >> providing a lot of
information, that he should not know. it is obvious. >> you are buying it? >> yes, we are buying he knows and he is involved with this. >> i don't think this woman deserved what happened. and she des get it. i want my back scratched too. >> billy told the cops, he never intended to follow through the hit. >> i am not going to kill nobody. nrvegsd he was going to play john, take him for as much money as possible. forio for two years that is what happened. >> how many conversations go you have with john. >> numerous. >> more than 10? >> yes. >> more than 20? >> 50, 60. >> detectives say, it wasn't just billy plays the john game, members of his crew were added, and the cops knew one of them. >> his name is john. we called him john, that was it.
detectives wall and turner headed for east texas, immediately after hearing details only an insider could know about the nancy howard shooting. their informant, billy earl johnson, the patriarch of a texas family, who claimed he had been involved in a plot to kill nancy. police wanted to talk to the
family members. billy earl department think much of him. >> now, don't know nothing about nothing. >> dustin hirims, the young man pulled over in nancy's neighborhood a month before she was shot. >> john. we called him john. that was it. >> the detectives found dustin staying with friends in a trailer. >> we were able to locate him. get him in custody. for the next two and a half three days, brian and i spent talking to dustin. >> you are a good kid. got yourself messed up with this thing. are you a good kid. >> the first night, he was on meth. crying. he was upset. >> 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. wasn't shy about suggesting how it could be done.
>> he wanted nancy to be robbed, staying at the hotel in grape vine, he wanted it done with a baseball bat. >> john provided her photo, detail bs her schedule, and suggested nancy be killed scrap booking with friends. >> she is a christian woman. you know. >> she is a christian woman. >> john did. >> john liked to spread his money around. >> he started laying out the whole thing, regarding his step dad, billy johnson, his mom, meetings with john. large sums of money being transferr transferred. in the millions. he lays out including his grandmother, receiving money, billy's other children involved. soon, dustin said members of the johnson clan were calling john whrve they needed money. >> when they are in jail, and can't get bonded out, then he
decides short stories, well, i can do this. and started getting all of this money. >> at one point, dustin said that john gave him $2000 to carry out the hit. money that he spent on methor gave away. >> $8,000 blowed off his car at a church parking lot. did you go back to get it? nah. no, i will get more. >> as the investigators dug deeper they learned a dozen people from east texas knew about the plot to kill nancy. charlie was one of them. >> have you heard about the shooting in carrollton? >> yes. >> everybody heard about it? >> yes. >> you know who was involved? >> mr. john. >> you know mr. john? >> yes. >> charlie louderman who was one of the few not related by blood
or marriage to billy earl johnson. >> charlie started out as a body guard for billy earl, said that billy and mr. john tried to get him to shoot nancy howard. >> he tried to get me to kill her. >> did he really? >> i have to -- >> that night, that son of a [ bleep ] tried to get me to kill that woman. sometimes, john met bill and handed over packages of k at a hamburger joint, and john was pressing them to get the hit down. >> you think you request get it done now? where are you at? we are about an hour away. we will call you when we get close. okay. call me when you got confirmation.
i want this thing done. >> i was like, damn, what did this lady do? >> as long as john was able to pay, they were willing to talk about killing nancy. and every time the hit didn't happen, john wanted to know why. billy was the master of outlandish excuses. >> he had brain seizures, done too much dope, the neighbors were home. john would buy it, hook, line, sinker every time. >> big john's big money scheme was an economic bonanza for east texas. couldn't seem to spend the money. >> vehicles for his children, a car for his mother, three, four four wheelers, go carts, a ski boat, he bought me a riding
mower, numerous assault weapons. anything he wanted. >> so, for more than two years, the murder plot bankrolled by john, killed nothing but time. >> they wanted more money. >> they were called the heehaw gang. >> it would have been a tough case f we had one or two as witnesses. when you have this number of people involved, someone is telling the trurkts or someone handed out a script to all these people, it was all the same information. >> the east texas crowd was canny enough to document their dealings with mr. john. had a picture of him in his fancy car. wait until you see it. it is a stunner. >> coming up. who is this infamous mister john.
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defense secretary characterized actions in northern syria as war crimes, including execution of kurdish prisoners. and troops would be withdrawn from northern syria. >> a missing worker at the scene of the partial collapse of the hard rock hotel. two people were killed in the incident. now back to "dateline." . >> 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 from nancy howard. john was a murky blend of money and murdererous intent. john was frank howard. a photograph of frank howard, sitting in the lexus, billy johnson sitting on his motorcycle. he may have been frank to his friends and mr. john to the east texans, but in truth, his full name was john franklin howard. >> a/k/a, frank. >> three names for a man who evidently had been living three lives. one with his wife in carrollton, one with his misstress in california, and one in the east
texas clan. >> being involved in the church, it was unusual. >> eight days after nancy was shot. the detectives return to the scene of the accident. this time, they had a warrant. >> i am sitting there, watching tv, and working. and the police show up at the door to arrest me. that was, i have no clue what is going on. and what is happening. >> they put you in the car and took you to the station. >> yes. >> yes. >> the charge, solicitation for murder. frank's children in shock. their father may have had an affair, they thaurkts but hiring hitmen, that made no sense. >> it is a specific type of evil person that tries to kill their spouse. my dad is just not that person. having an affair is a human mistake, trying to murder a
person, no heman would not do that humans make mistakes. >> it was a huge leap. i had never felt like that dad hated the kids enough to do that to our mom. he never hated my mom. never talked poorly about my mom enough to do that. >> even nancy refused to believe that her husband of 30 years could have orchestrated a plot to have her killed. >> i was totally in shock. this is so far from anything, first of all, they ever dreamed i would be involved in. second of all, i mean, it all came at the same time. i am shot. then i find out my husband has been having a three-year affair. i was in disbelief. it was so far-fetched. >> his friends felt the same way. frank was so well regarded in carrollton, his friends offered
to posthis $one million bond. witness after witness talked of his sterling reputation. >> clients, came forward, packed the courtroom for a bond hearing, which is unhearing. they took the stand. they you know, sang his praises on what a good guy he was the. >> 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 that he was having an affair, and paid hundreds and thousands of dollars to make believe hitman, they had a picture of a meeting with one of them. a crucial element was missing. >> we are in the middle of this. we don't have the shooter identified. everyone that we arrested up to this point, we can only confirm they are involved in the solicitation to have nancy
killed. >> which is not to say that they didn't get hints from the east texans. >> dustin hirims gives us the name of michael speck. that is billy john's nefew. >> michael speck. a search of yale recordings soon revealed a surprise. not only did they hear billy earl talking about someone named michael, they heard the voice of frank howard. >> i need money. >> well, that is part of my problem. what happened to michael. i gave him a bunch of money. >> how much did you give him? >> i don't know, it has been so long. >> 20? >> at least. >> it is clear from those phone conversations, at the jail, that frank is directly involved in orchestrating this. >> michael has everything i had
left. he said he could take care of everything. >> the police were sure that michael speck was one of the men in the silver car, they had no idea who the other man was. then, a few months later, a call out of the blue seemed to provide the break they had been looking for. the caller sounded critical. she knew details only the shooter and nancy would know. in a flustered moment, the nancy handed the bag of food to the shooter. >> the caller lead them eventually to someone they believed was the shooter. his name was also michael. michael lawrence. he and speck had been prison cell mates. >> this is like six degrees of separation. >> all the puzzle pieces were coming together. >> the police thought they could put both michaels in the silver car on the night nancy was shot. it would be up to a jury to
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in the months after nancy howard was shot in the face and left for dead. she divorced frank, and fought faith in the embrace of family. enjoyed happy moments when the shooting was almost forgotten. the day that her daughter got married. frank walked her down the aisle. >> for me, it was never a doubt in my mind, my dad would be
walking me down the aisle. >> we had a good time. it was a joyful time. i remember walking with him and saying, well, we ended up doing this together afterall, didn't we. >> hard to imagine, frank and nancy put family first. for a long time, nancy refused to believe the worst about franchlth as the months pampt she had a change of heart. she kept hoping she was wrong. >> i believe that he had relationships with the kind of people that would do something like this. i am going to let the jury make the decision, on whether or not he called the shot. >> you are not ready to say he ordered the hit? >> i am not ready to say that. >> jamie beck was ready to say that, and a lot more. >> i try not to get too personally involved so on to speak, i did not like him.
i did not like the good versus evil aspect to him. and the manipulation they felt. >> in early august, 2014, frank howard went on trial for attempted capital murder. starting with nancy's 911 call. >> jesus help me. jesus help me. an emotional opening punch. that left frank visually shaken. as did her testimony about her injuries and overwhelming feelings of betrayal. >> i was married to a man named frank howard. for a majority of our marriage, john started taking over. frank was a man who was loving and kind. he had integrity. john was about himself. >> prosecutors laid out their
theory. john, a/k/afrank howard, hired a man who hill his wife. >> this group of characters, some called them, the heehaw gang, very questionable characters. >> with long rap sheets. how do you get the jury to believe what they are saying? >> when are you going to go out and hire a hitman, you are not going to hire a good person, are you going to hire a person with a seedy past that is willing to do that job. >> if orange is the new black, this was a fashionable crowd. on the stand, the witnesses corroborated each other's stories, testified they received money from a man named john to kill his wife. they communicated to john calling his drop phone. saying john and frank were one
in the same. charlie said john didn't seem happy to see his east texas friends there. >> he did not want to see me there. he was twirling on his pen. like a principal, going to give me some licks. >> vast amounts of money. >> some times, 83,000 in my bedroom floor. >> investigators were able to follow the moni on frank's computers, they found wire transfers, that added up to three quarters of a million. rick daniel. >> it is hard to believe, that the frank, the meticulous numbers guy is throwing around money. documenting it they are wire transfers, it is hard to believe. >> at first, it was all cash. i think he got tired of having to go and meet, once he started with the wire transfer, i think
he realized that you know, it is done, might as well keep doing it now. trying to get a solution to his problem, throwing more money at it. >> the east texans, who gladly took that money were not charged. they were either doing time orb facing prosecution for other crimes. jamie beck and her team wanted to link frank to the men they believe shot nancy, the men in the silver car. first, they tried to establish that frank paid the alleged driver. they played a snippet of the jail housecall recorded weeks before the shooting. >> i gave michael. i said, i am all in with you buddy. i don't know what else to do. i went all in with him. >> more incriminating, prosecutors said that phone records proved that frank was communicating with the alleged drirve the day of the shooting. as for the alleged shooter, the other mike willa, the prosecution said he confessed to
her the night nancy was shot. >> he does a full-out confession. i murdered someone. i shot a woman in the forehead, in her garage, took her food, and her purse. then we dumped everything on the way back. >> both michaels pleaded not guilty. their day in court would come later. as for motive, the prosecutors said it was as old as time. frank had another woman. this was no casual fling. they presented evidence of frank's devotion, the flower, letters and cards he is not to her when he wasn't with her. and frank spent enormous sums of money on his misstress. >> 1.9 million, they purchased a home congratulate in k they purchased a condo in lake tahoe together.
he had given her $500,000 in cash, so, she was certainly living life of with a lot of money from frank. >> the pictures that police found on frank's cellphone, showed a happy couple. 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. >> what do you think he meant, to get things done. >> i think he meant following through with killing nancy. >> in the text, suzanne wrote, i am sick of being alone. file by this friday or move on. i have waited long enough. prosecutors said that affair was frank's motive. all eyes were on suzanne when
she took the stand. >> she believed he was in a loveless marriage, that was separated from his wife, but living under the roof for convenience sake in separate bedrooms. >> how important was the mistress's testimony? >> i don't think suzanne had any knowledge of any of this. i don't think she knew about the murder for hire plot. i don't think she knew about association with criminals, suzanne believed, like everybody else around frank, take him at his word and believe him. >> prosecutors told the jury, for a family man like frank, divorce was not an option. they argued, murder was. >> it didn't have to happen. divorce. the solution. >> frank was with suzanne in california on the day nancy was shot. etch so, he found time to send an e-mail to his wife. prosecutor, jamie beck read it to the jury. >> i know you have a busy day
today. he knows her schedule. provided it to the two michaels, i will try to call you some time today. i love you, and can't wait to get home to you. that is sick. that is sick. he wanted to get home to her casket. that is what he wanted to come home to. >> 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 of those east texans were lying, and frank never paid anyone to kill his wife. coming up. the defense comes out swinging. and in its corner, two devoted daughters. >> i wanted to be there for my dad. he is not the man that you are talking about. >> when "dateline" continues.
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>> did you have anying to do with your wife being shot that day in your garage? >> i absolutely did not. >> nevertheless, defense attorneys knew they had their work cut out for them when they rose to frank howard's defense. >> the state put on a large amount of evidence. showed a lot of money transferred. they showed the affair, pictures of the poor lady shot in the head at the hospital. power images to be sure. the prosecutorsication simply didn't make sense. >> it was incredible to hear the agricultures that a man would have spent the kind of money they said was spent in order to have someone shot. in light of the fact that when you saw all the people that were saying he paid them, look at the kind of people they were. >> so, the first line of defense was don't trust anybody who wears prison gash to court. >> i believe, when the jurors look at the case and see how the
people are liars, criminals, drug users, if they don't believe those people, they can't convict him for attempted murder. >> hundreds of thousands of dollars to kill somebody, they aren't being prosecuted. it makes no sense. >> not only that the defense arguing, some of their stories were too fantastic to be believed. charlie said that some of the cash came from the middle east in body bags, some of it had hair, blood stuck to it, burn marks on it i said, what in the hell is that awful damn smell. billy look thea me, you know how that is how we are getting that money in here. dead bodies from kuwait. in the caskets. >> the defense called that claim
outrageous. >> crazy things. 80,000, 100,000 in cash, coming back in dead soldiers from iraq. this man had crazy things. >> the defense attorneys challenged the credibility of billy earl and the crew, they told the jury the real reason he was in contact with the east texas crowd boiled down to one word. blackmail. >> he has a great representation in his hometown, i am sure it would bother him if the people at church knew he had a girl friend, had an affair, and those to black mail him. >> you see all the money going out to shady people. you never see any return. no action. my belief is that he was being blackmailed? >> for the affair. i can't way what. my dad was a generous person.
maybe somewhere in there, it was give a guy a second chance, help me out. and snowballed into, threatening his family, or telling about the affair, i don't know. i think it probably started as a generous, you know, give grace to someone, help another human, and became something out of his control. >> according to the defense, frank stopped paying members of the johnson clan week before the shooting, that could be the reason nancy was shot. >> do you think that this was pay back to frank, because the money train stopped. >> i believe it was something to get the money going again. i believe they were sending him a message. you know. you are not going to quit paying us. >> it could be that. >> you know, they may not have intended to kill nancy. he shoots her in the head. she is still why didn't he shoot
her again? >> frank didn't take the stand in his own defense. all three of the howard children d. >> was it hard to take the stand in the trial, knowing what was at stake? >> it was. i wanted to be there for my dad. i wanted to do things and say things, that gave a different perspective to, he is not the man you are talking about. he is imperfect, but he is a good person. >> you could have been his best w his own children, standing behind him. >> when we saw we support our dad. it is not a blind support. it is a reasoned support. we have been able to separate the feelings about the affair from the feelings about his involvement in this criminal scheme. >> 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 he has had
a divorce, married once. ask yourself if that is what that means. i don't believe as reasonable people you can convict someone on the testimony on the kind of people they brought in here. with the house of cards they brought in here. it starts and ends with billy johnson. i do not believe that is 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 convicted. >> the jury held frank howard's fate in its hands. >> coming up, the man of rock solid character or this cast of characters? who would the jury believe? when "dateline" continues.
beaver cleef family, close, wholesome and picture perfect. if nothing else, john franklin howard's capital murder trial proved that image was as dated as a black and white rerun. nancy, surrounded by friends and families, frank's supporters, behind the defense table as for the children, in the courtroom. they almost always sat on their dad's side. >> for me, i was very focused on the goal, what we are here for. defense my dad all the way. >> the tension and stressed caused by the devotion to their father was at time etched on nancy's face. >> i am trying to understand, you have to understand, they had continual contact with their father for the past two years, they too, wanted to believe that their father was the same man. >> after 10 days, and a mountain
of evidence, jurors might have been expected to be out for a while. >> has the jury reached a verdict for this case? >> yes. >> is that a unanimous verdict in each of the 12 jurors in this case. >> it had taken 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. >> when you heard that word, guilty, what is going through your mind? >> complete heart break. yet, it was, peace. it was finally over. >> in a separate hearing, frank howard was sentencing to life in prison. >> my gut reaction s now we have to appeal. >> you didn't -- >> no. because, for me, that was the plan. not guilty, we move on.
guilty, we appeal. there is no, let's all cry and hold hands and be sad. dad is in jail. no. we are going to appeal. >> it is easier to cope that way. >> yes. >> at first, there is shock. then it is like, are you just angry. are you angry that they didn't -- you don't feel they got the truth. >> in the end, frank howard's appeals were denied. the case was far from over. remember the michaels, the two men prosecutors say actually carried out the attack on nancy? in 2015, billy earl's nephew, turned on his former cell mate, michael lawrence in return for a reduced sentence, that michael lawrence was the triggerman. he was convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to 60 years. he appealed, in 2017, a texas court overturned his conviction, that evidence introduced
relating to the murder for hire scheme was misleading and unfairly prej dinchlt lawrence was retried and found the guilty, the district attorney decided to prosecute him for the nancy howard case. for the money, to support his lavish lifestyle, turns out it was stolen for the wealthy contractor frank once worked for. >> he was so haphazardly giving out money. >> freely giving it out. >> the only way i can explain that is, when you don't earn the money, when it is not from your hard work and efforts, it has no value. 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. >> an arbitration determined that he embezzled $6 million between 2009, 200012. frank was hearded to repay that with interest. >> you went into this hoping that he department call the shots on this. >> i did. >> i tried to keep my heart open. >> you have no doubt in your mind. >> absolutely. >> frank called the shots on your attempted murder. >> absolutely. john called the shots. >> alter ego. >> yes, it is. >> you messed up, buddy. >> perhaps nobody knew john better than the east texan crowd. >> he said john howard got what he deserved. >> smart, you hired an idiot to
do your dirty work. >> charlie said he regrets he got involved with billy johnson, and remorseful for what happened to nancy. >> i carry a lot of guilt about her injury, with her eye. she looked like a happy lady in the pictures to me. to john's children, i am sorry. your dad did it. you know. there is no getting around it. >> after hearing the evidence, john and nancy's daughters still believed their father was innocent. >> there will be people watching this saying, you two are delusional. your dad was found guilty, you are supporting your dad. >> i get that i would say, those people that think we are delusional have not shared our experiences, they haven't gone to jail, sat behind that glass, picked up that phone and talked
to the same man they have been talking to for the last 28 years. you can say all day long, that poor girl, she wants to support her dad. be clear. i think that justice needs to be served. i don't think it has been. i think it is unfortunate, we are going to say we got squft for my mom, that man is a terrible human being. no justice for my mom, now, there is no justice for my dad. >> the sisters conceded in 2014, the family bonds had been strained by the 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? >> absolutely, it is a raw time. a big life event happened. a big change happened. we are all having to process what we feel and come back together and sort it out. >> the future for the howard family? >> we are a strong family then,
we will be a strong family in the future. those two are not going to look the same. that is okay. we are going to figure it out. >> it is unclear how frank howard's daughters feel about their father now. neither responded. nancy has forgiven and went back to work, and goes by her maiden name, nancy shore. in the spring of 2017, she told her story in a book called "the shooting of nancy shore." >> i would have loved to continue being the beaver cleefer family. i would have loved to continued being married to frank. because i loved that man with all my heart. that man loved me at some point.
but, it was obviously a change in who he was and is. >> i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." >> that's what he was trying to do was protect his family. that's all he ever wanted to do. maybe when the man was dying, that's what he was doing. >> a guy yet family night at home shattered by intruders. >> the gun was like right here. >> a devoted father and husband dead. >> she just kept saying they killed him. >> someone murdered her husband but left her alive. and that left police suspicious. was it possible she was involved in her husband's murder? >> the indicators are in cases like