Witnesses identified suspect in UConn student’s death
VERNON, Conn. - Several witnesses identified the man charged with fatally stabbing a University of Connecticut football player as the killer, prosecutors said yesterday.
Two people arrested in the stabbing of 20-year-old Jasper Howard were arraigned in Rockville Superior Court yesterday. John William Lomax III, 21, is charged with murder while his friend and co-worker, Hakim Muhammad, 20, 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 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 say 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, Jamal Todd, 21, of Hartford, were arrested Tuesday. Todd faces a felony charge of falsely reporting an incident and a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment in 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 spokesman for the Lomax family, said John Lomax 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 has not heard that any player was involved in anything other than “verbal jostling.’’
Howard died of a single wound in his abdomen.