‘My husband hired a hitman to kill me – but I forgive him’
When Nancy Shore drove home from church one day in August 2012 a hitman was waiting for her with a gun. She survived, but was stunned to learn, from her hospital bed, who police accused of paying to have her killed.
“We really had an awesome marriage,” says 57-year-old Nancy Shore.
“Obviously, you go through your ups and downs. I mean we weren’t perfect, we had our issues from time to time and we always worked through those.”
Nancy married Frank Howard in 1983 and they raised three children together in Carrollton, Texas.
“He was very kind, gentle, loving. He was very involved with our children,” she says.
“He coached soccer teams when they were little kids – we went to all of their soccer games. And some of them [did] musical theatre.”
The couple sang in the choir at their local church and held Bible study meetings for the youth group in their family home. But when their children grew up, Frank began to travel more for his work as an accountant. Nancy began to feel more isolated.
“I was a stay-at-home mom and that was my job, and once they started leaving it was getting hard for me,” says Nancy. “And then he started getting more busy with work and I guess you would say it felt like we were growing, in distance, apart.”
Frank was away on what Nancy thought was another business trip on the evening of 18 August 2012. She had attended a baptism at her church and after stopping to get a takeaway, she drove back home.
“I drove into my garage and suddenly there was a man with his arm around my neck and a gun to my head,” says Nancy. He demanded her handbag.
Nancy managed to wrestle herself away and turned to face her attacker, who was wearing a black baseball cap. Terrified, she accidentally handed him the bag of takeaway food.
“He demanded my purse a third time with expletives,” says Nancy. “I was close enough to him to shove my purse into his chest and when I did I cried out, ‘Jesus save me!’ and he immediately shot me in the head and I went down.”
Nancy lay unconscious on the floor while her assailant ran off, taking the handbag but leaving her car, which he could easily have stolen. When she recovered consciousness, Nancy could barely breathe and was in excruciating pain.
The bullet had gone through her head and lodged in her right lung.
“When I came to I thought you’re going to die, and then that’s when God spoke to me and said, ‘Get up.’ He gave me the physical strength to get up,” says Nancy.
Her mobile phone was in her stolen handbag so she crawled to the car and pressed a button designed to summon an emergency rescue service. When this didn’t work, Nancy made a huge effort and staggered into the house. Here she caught her reflection in a mirror for the first time.
“I looked at myself and all I could see was blood from my eye down to my beautiful purple shirt,” says Nancy.
“At that point I didn’t realise that I had lost my left eye.”
Struggling for breath, she managed to call the emergency services, screaming “Help me, help me!” She told them where she was and provided a description of her attacker. She then miraculously walked to the front door to wait for the paramedics’ arrival.
A policeman at the scene contacted Nancy’s children who phoned their father Frank.
“He began weeping and being beside himself, as one daughter described it,” says Nancy. “And he was out of control trying to get to my rescue.”
Once Frank was able to fly back home, he visited his wife at the hospital. Nancy says her daughter described to her how he fell to the floor before he first saw her, such was his distress.
Yet as the police began to investigate, they found some shocking data on Frank’s mobile phone, including photographs and text messages from another woman. Frank had been with her at the time of the attack, and not on a business trip.
The affair had been going on for three years.
When Nancy was strong enough to leave intensive care she received a phone call from Frank via the hospital phone confessing to his adultery.
“I just completely began weeping,” says Nancy. “He actually was weeping so hard that I could barely even understand him talking, to tell me what had happened.”
Frank came to visit Nancy at the hospital several more times after that call, but there was more devastating news to come. While she was still recovering from surgery and undergoing further tests, the police told Nancy they had arrested a man in connection with the attack – John Franklin Howard, Nancy’s husband, known to everyone as Frank.
For several years, Frank had been paying a gang of criminals to murder his wife.
“It was heartbreaking,” says Nancy. “I can remember even after an eye surgery just weeping and weeping and my mother had to come in and say, ‘Stop, you can’t cry like that, your eye has got to heal,’ and, ‘You can’t be letting your head hang down like that.'”
The criminals had been exploiting Frank, continually demanding more and more money. He was also spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on his girlfriend. So Frank had started to embezzle money from one of his wealthy clients – possibly more than $30m.
Nancy does not know why Frank wanted her killed. But she believes it’s because he knew she would never agree to a divorce.
“I had made that vow to the Lord that I was not going to divorce him,” says Nancy. “So he began getting involved with [another woman], the next thing you know he’s embezzling money because he’s trying to show her that he’s this rich man, and I think before long he was in over his head. He really had no option but to have me shot.”
At Frank’s trial, the jury took only two hours to find him guilty of attempted capital murder. He was sentenced to life in prison and will have to serve 30 years before he will be considered for parole. By then he will be about 85 years old.
In fact Nancy did divorce her husband – before the trial – but if he had been acquitted she would have been willing to rebuild their relationship and remarry him, she says.
So the guilty verdict came as a “kick in the stomach”.
“It’s because I still loved him at the time, and you know I have to say I still love him, not in a romantic love, but in a love that he’s the father of my children, and there’s always going to be a love there,” Nancy says.
Her children were convinced their father had been wrongly convicted.
“He was continually telling them that he was innocent,” says Nancy. “That he had nothing to do with this, and he was a great husband and father until the time he wasn’t. So I can totally understand why my children believe this.”
After the verdict she and her children left the courtroom separately. It was a month before they began to make contact again.
Despite everything she has been through, Nancy has been able to forgive her husband – and even offered him forgiveness via her victim impact statement at the trial.
“I have forgiven him,” says Nancy. “The Bible says that if we don’t forgive those who have harmed us then we are unable to be forgiven and I couldn’t afford not to forgive him because I couldn’t live with bitterness.”
Nancy has not seen or heard from Frank since he went to prison. Although she has thought about visiting him, for now she is keeping her distance. But there is one question that preys on her mind, and that she would ask him if she could.
“What happened to the marriage?” says Nancy. “What in the world even caused him to want to go astray and find another woman? I know the shooting should be the most devastating part of it, but that has been the most devastating part.”
Nancy’s recovery has astonished doctors. She has had numerous operations to rebuild her face and eye socket and now has a prosthetic eye. She also has a full-time job working as a legal assistant in a law firm.
“I still have the bullet in my lung, but I had lost the use of my right arm and hand and I now am able to use it and I type,” says Nancy.
She says she “vigorously” celebrates every birthday she has had since the shooting and still experiences joy singing in the church choir. Nearly six years after the horror of the attack on her doorstep, she is moving on.
“I’m able to be thankful once again for how God has saved my life and the healing that’s happening in my children’s lives, it’s awesome,” she says. “I’m excruciatingly happy.”