A 37-year-old man charged in a fatal home invasion said he was never at the McHenry house where prosecutors said he and another man pushed their way inside and shot the homeowner before taking off with thousands of dollars of stolen cash.
Byron Howard appeared in court Tuesday in a blue button-down shirt and dress pants. Howard has been in the McHenry County Jail since June 16, 2017, when he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, home invasion and other felony offenses in connection with the murder of 52-year-old Donald Jouravleff.
Tuesday marked the first day of testimony in Howard’s jury trial. Prosecutors have charged three other men – Charles Campo, Jared Fox and Adam Morris – for their alleged involvement in the May 27, 2017 burglary at Jouravleff’s and his wife, Donna Mills’, home.
Howard’s attorney, Henry Sugden said Tuesday that his client couldn’t have been one of the two the masked gunman who rushed the doors of the McHenry-area home, despite testimony from Fox and Campo that might suggest otherwise.
Both men accepted plea deals from the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office in exchange for their testimony against Morris and Howard.
“When you hear them testify you’ll see they’re selling their souls to make a deal,” Sugden told jurors during his opening statements.
Morris, formerly a laborer for Mills’ moving company, was convicted of murder at a jury trial in March. Although Howard is accused of going into the home armed, Fox said Tuesday that he never saw Howard with a gun.
Fox and Campo each previously testified that it was Fox who knocked on the door of the Davis Avenue the morning of the shooting. When Jouravleff answered, however, Howard and Morris pushed their way inside just before two gunshots rang out, prosecutors said.
Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Combs described the scene of the shooting as “a homeowner’s worst nightmare.”
Mills said that before she could dial 911, a masked person whom she described as a black man wearing a scarf over his face and gloves on his hands, put a gun to her head and told her to be quiet.
“I thought I was going to die,” Mills said.
Later on during the police investigation, officers would play Mills a recording of Howard’s voice. She recognized the recording as the same tone as her intruder, but never identified the suspect by name.
The trial will pick back up Wednesday morning in McHenry County Court.