Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Prosecutors have witnesses to crime
VERNON, Conn. -- Several witnesses identified the man charged with fatally stabbing a University of Connecticut football player as the killer, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Two people arrested in the stabbing of 20-year-old Jasper Howard were arraigned in Rockville Superior Court. John William Lomax III, 21, is charged with murder while his friend and co-worker, 20-year-old Hakim Muhammad, is charged with conspiracy to commit assault.
Police have not discussed a motive and the investigators' affidavits and arrest warrants are sealed.
But prosecutor Matthew Gedansky argued for a high bond, saying that several witnesses reported seeing Lomax and Muhammad involved in a minor altercation with others outside a university-sanctioned dance early Oct. 18. He said the two went back to Lomax's car and returned "in a rage" with knives, and escalated the violence. Several witnesses also identified Lomax as the person who stabbed Howard, he said.
Lomax's attorney, Deron Freeman, denied that his client stabbed Howard and said no witnesses in the affidavit could identify Lomax with 100 percent certainty. Even if all the allegations in the affidavit were true, "this was a mutual combat situation where my client was engaged," he said.
Gerald Klein, Muhammad's attorney, said that while some witnesses claim his client had something in his hand that looked like a knife, no one has offered evidence that he swung it at anyone.
"The mere presence at the scene of a crime does not make someone guilty," Klein said.
Lomax's bond was kept at $2 million, while the judge set Muhammad's bond at $450,000.
Neither man has a criminal record, and each was described as a hardworking high school graduate who went to college for a year. Both are from the same neighborhood in Bloomfield.
Both men appeared in court wearing golf shirts with their employer's logo, a computer recycling company. Lomax responded to each question from the judge with a strong, "Yes sir."
Outside of court, Lomax's mother, Troylyn Grimes, said her son was innocent. "He's not a bad kid," she said. "They're lying on him."
Lomax, Muhammad and a third man, 21-year-old Jamal Todd of Hartford, were arrested Tuesday. Todd faces a felony charge of falsely reporting an incident and misdemeanor reckless endangerment for allegedly pulling a fire alarm that emptied the dance. He is free after posting a $5,000 bond and is due in court next month.
Todd's attorney, Jonathan Budlong, said his client is acquainted with Lenox and Muhammad, but did not go to the dance with them. Budlong said Todd, a student at Eastern Connecticut State University, was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A fourth man, Johnny Hood, 21, of Hartford was arrested at the scene of the stabbing and charged with breach of peace and interfering with police.
None of those arrested is a UConn student.
Alfonzo Stokes, a family friend and spokesman for the Lomax family, said John Lomax, who goes by the nickname Pooda, is a good person who works hard to support his daughter.
Lomax, Muhammad and their friend Hood went to UConn that night because they had heard about a college party at the student union, he said.
"They all just went there to hang out," said Stokes, 48, of East Hartford.
"We all believe what he told us, and what he told us is he didn't do it," Stokes said. "This is as devastating to us as it is to Howard's family."
Several other football players were with Howard, but none has been charged. UConn football coach Randy Edsall said he hasn't heard that any player was involved in anything other than "verbal jostling."
Howard, whose nickname was Jazz, died at a hospital from a single wound in his abdomen, only hours after helping his team to a homecoming game win over Louisville.