On May 27, 2017, Bryon Howard was one of two people to push his way into a McHenry-area home just before two gunshots rang out, killing homeowner Donald Jouravleff, prosecutors said.
Seated across the courtroom from Howard Friday, Jouravleff’s wife, Donna Mills, told the 37-year-old she prays he remains in prison.
“I don’t understand why you feel you had the right to break into my house that night,” Mills said.
Mills previously testified that a masked man wearing gloves held a gun to her head while another intruder demanded money from the basement. During the investigation, Mills recognized the “smooth” voice of her gunman on a police recording that helped officers identify Howard as one of the four burglars who went to her home that day.
Dressed in a pair of orange McHenry County Jail scrubs Friday, Howard turned to face Mills and speak to her one last time – denying any involvement with her husband’s death.
“I would not do this to your husband, let alone to you,” he said.
Howard previously turned down a plea deal that promised just 23 years in prison, compared with the 86-year-sentence he received Friday. He has four prior prison convictions on his record.
Jurors last month found Howard guilty of first-degree murder, home invasion and being an armed habitual criminal, among other charges. They also determined he was in possession of firearm when the crimes occurred, adding 15 years to the sentences issued on several counts.
The shooter, 46-year-old Adam Morris, was sentenced to 71 years in prison earlier this month. Two additional men, Charles Campo and Jared Fox, also were charged in connection with the home invasion and murder. They accepted plea deals in exchange for their testimony against Morris and Howard and are scheduled for sentencing in June.
Although the prison term is a natural-life sentence for Howard, it’s the minimum possible sentence Judge Sharon Prather could have ordered.
“The court has gone with the minimum because the sentence is longer than Mr. Howard will live,” Prather said in court Friday, eliciting tears from Howard’s girlfriend.