Connecticut Man charged with stabbing UConn football player to death Defense says he was trying to break up a fight

By Pat Eaton-Robb

Associated Press Writer

STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- The lawyer for a 21-year-old man charged with killing University of Connecticut football player Jasper Howard says his client was trying to break up a fight and was not involved in the stabbing that took the starting cornerback's life.

John William Lomax III is charged with murder and conspiracy to commit assault in connection with Howard's death outside a school-sanctioned dance on Oct. 18. He is being held in lieu of $2 million bond.

Lomax's lawyer, Deron Freeman, said he was first told Lomax would be charged in connection with the fight during which Howard was stabbed, but not with murder.

"I'm surprised," Freeman said. "I'm curious to find out what evidence they had to secure an arrest warrant for murder. ... From all the evidence I've heard, he was not involved in the stabbing."

Lomax wasn't present when the argument started and doesn't know what it was about, but tried to break up the fight and didn't stab anyone, Freeman said.

Another man, Hakim Muhammad, 20, was charged with conspiracy to commit assault. Both live in Bloomfield, around 30 miles from the UConn campus.

Neither suspect is expected to enter a plea, and both cases are expected to be transferred to a court that handles serious crimes.

A third man, Jamal Todd, 21, of Hartford, was arrested Tuesday on a felony charge of falsely reporting an incident and misdemeanor reckless endangerment for allegedly pulling a fire alarm that emptied the dance early that Sunday morning. He is free after posting a $5,000 bond and is due in court next month.

None of those arrested is a UConn student.

Police have said Howard was stabbed during a fight that started after the dance was evacuated. Several other football players were with him, but none have been charged. UConn football coach Randy Edsall said he hasn't heard that any player was involved in anything other than "verbal jostling."

The case files have been sealed because the investigation is continuing, and police have not provided any details about the fight.

Lomax, a Bloomfield High School graduate who works in information technology, goes by the nickname Pooda. He last logged into his MySpace page in March, when he listed his occupation as "taking care of my daughter."

On his Facebook page, Lomax's friends include Muhammad and 21-year-old Johnny Hood of Hartford, who was arrested last week and faces charges of breach of peace and interfering with police.

Police would not discuss evidence or a motive during a news conference Tuesday. Investigators conducted more than 200 interviews and "have not stopped working," UConn police chief Robert Hudd said.

Howard, whose nickname was Jazz, died hours after helping his team to a homecoming game win over Louisville. He was 20.

The entire UConn football team attended his funeral Monday in Miami. Players said they were happy that an arrest was made, but that it was of little comfort.

"It is a little closure, but the reality is my teammate's still not here with us," said running back Jordan Todman.

Several players said Tuesday that they had never heard of Lomax and don't know how he and Howard crossed paths.

"I know that his mother is very excited that someone is being charged with this crime. That's all I've been really thinking about, just how his family is doing," said defensive tackle Kendall Reyes.

Greg Lloyd, a junior linebacker, said the team is relieved that someone is being held accountable for Howard's death.

"I wish only that it didn't happen at all so at least I can have my teammate back," he said. "It's unreal grief for the family, unreal grief for his friends -- it's just a shame."


Associated Press writer Dave Collins contributed to this report.