CHARGED: Dustin Hiroms. Source: Smith County Jail.
HIROMS' STEPFATHER: Billie Johnson. Source: Denton County Jail.
HIROMS' MOTHER: Stacey Serenko. Source: Wood County Jail.
John Howard (L) allegedly ordered a hit on his wife, Nancy, seen on the right. Source: WFAA
John Franklin Howard. Source: WFAA/Carrollton Police Dept.
CARROLLTON, TX (KLTV/WFAA) -
An East Texas man is behind bars, accused of being involved in an elaborate murder-for-hire plot targeting a North Texas woman.
19-year-old Dustin Taylor Hiroms of Ben Wheeler has been arrested and police say he was hired by a Carrollton man to carry out an elaborate scheme to kill his wife.
John Franklin Howard is behind bars, accused of masterminding the plan to kill his wife Nancy, according to arrest affidavits. Police believe Howard planned for several years to hire a hitman to kill his wife. He was arrested August 26 by Carrollton Police and charged with solicitation of capital murder and is being held on $1 million bond.
Nancy Howard was shot in the face when she arrived at her Carrollton, TX home on August 18. Carrollton Police said the gunman shot her through her left eye. She was left severely injured and in a coma for several days. Howard is now expected to make a full recovery, a recovery that is being profiled on a CaringBridge website.
Hiroms was arrested August 25 and charged for the armed robbery of Nancy Howard, according to Smith County Jail records. He was transferred to Denton County Jail and booked in on August 29 where it states he is charged with murder.
According to an arrest affidavit, Mrs. Howard said she was shot by a white male in his early 20's who took off on foot.
A detective learned in July 2012, Carrollton officers pulled over a Honda Accord with Dustin Hiroms and Jason Rendine inside the vehicle. Hiroms said he was coming from Van coming to get money from his uncle. According to the officer, Hiroms changed his answer multiple times. He was arrested for traffic offenses at that time but the documents said, "Hiroms advised... he was working for a guy named John and that Hiroms was a hit man."
The detective working on the shooting noticed the house they were looking for in July was the location of the shooting and the man referenced as 'John' matched the identity of the husband of the victim, John Franklin Howard.
EAST TEXAS CONNECTIONS
Van Police notified Carrollton PD mid-July 2012 that they received information that Jason Rendine had been "talking about a 'hit' that Dustin Hiroms was involved in." According to the information Van PD received, Hiroms was hired to "get rid of" the wife of a man in Carrollton and had received a sum of $30,000.
Affidavits state Rendine and his wife Stephanie Delacerda were living in Bossier City, LA and were arrested by Bossier Parish Sheriff's on August 22, 2012 on drug charges. Deputies seized $14,900 from the car along with Delacerda's checkbook and cell phone.
Detectives learned Delacerda had a relationship with John Howard and Howard paid her $35,000 to her bank account. Delacerda first said the payment was part of a business transaction, according to documents, but later changed her story to say the payments were for "sexual contacts with John Howard."
STEPFATHER AND MOTHER COME FORWARD
In Denton County, detectives were notified that an inmate at the Denton County Jail had information about the shooting of Nancy Howard. The inmate is identified as Billie Johnson, of Fruitvale, TX, who is Dustin Hiroms' stepfather.
Johnson said three years before the shooting he was contacted by John Frank Howard and according to the affidavit John "wanted to pay him to have John's wife killed." Johnson told investigators personal details about Mr. Howard including that he was a CPA, and drove a gray Lexus and also saying what kind of vehicle his wife drove.
Johnson told investigators he had numerous contacts with Howard about the plot to kill Howard's wife. Documents said Johnson did not disclose with authorities the amount of money that he or any other family member might have received from Howard.
Documents show investigators also received help from Dustin Hiroms' mother, Stacey Serenko. She submitted information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in August 2012 about the shooting investigation.
Detectives in Carrollton received the written report from the FBI special agent saying Serenko informed them that in February 2009, John Franklin Howard, contacted her husband Billie Johnson because he heard that Johnson "did murder for hire."
Serenko told the agent Howard wanted someone to kill his wife, Nancy Howard, and stressed that the murder "had to look like an accident."
The affidavit said Johnson and Serenko both met Mr. Howard in Carrollton around March 2009 where they were paid $85,000. John Howard provided them with photos of his wife and a copy of her schedule.
Howard set up a phone account for the three to communicate and the three would regularly meet at a Dallas-area Whataburger talking about "ideas on how to kill Nancy," according to the documents.
Serenko told the agent John Howard would wire the money to one of three accounts -- either her mother, Barbara Hiroms; the couple's bondsmen, Jimmy Pickens and Christy Pickens; or Johnson's son, Kurt Johnson. The affidavit said Serenko's oldest son, Dustin Hiroms was communicating with Howard and was receiving money from him.
HIROMS' ARREST & INTERVIEW
Hiroms was arrested August 24 and interviewed by Carrollton investigators at the Smith County Sheriff's Office on Monday, August 26.
Dustin told investigators he denied being a part of the robbery but did admit to being contacted by John Howard and said Howard wanted him to kill his wife.
Hiroms said he received $80,000 in wire transfers to his grandmother's account from John Howard. He told Carrollton detectives he met John Howard at a Wal-Mart in Carrollton and went with John in his Lexus to show Hiroms the Howard residence. Hiroms was reportedly given $5,000 in cash and Howard wanted to have his wife killed at the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine when she was expected to stay there August 8-11, according to the affidavit.
The documents show Hiroms thought out the plan to kill his wife, even thinking of what would not bring the most attention.
"Dustin stated that John believed that a gunshot would bring too much attention and that John wanted him to make it look like a robbery and either kill Nancy with a knife or a bat," the affidavit said.
Hiroms said John Howard met him at a Mesquite clothing store to make the final $10,000 payment on August 9.
Hiroms' grandmother was interviewed at the Smith County Sheriff's Office on August 24. She showed them a picture she was sent from her daughter, Stacy Serenko, that showed a white male in a gray passenger car. On August 26, Dustin was shown the photo and he identified the man as John Howard.
Carrollton Police have not commented publicly about the case and not said who they believe shot Mrs. Howard.
The affidavit says the evidence led investigators to believe that John Howard hired Billie Johnson and Dustin Hiroms to kill his wife. John Howard is in jail and held on $1 million bond.
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