Former Philadelphia Police Officer David Wade Howard -- who served about six years in prison for wounding a man he caught in bed with his ex-wife -- was acquitted Thursday of first-degree murder in the Easter 2014 shooting of another man in yet another love triangle.
Howard, 53, erupted in loud sobs as the foreman of the Common Pleas Court jury announced the verdict after about two hours of deliberations.
As acquittals followed on conspiracy and gun charges, Howard embraced lawyer Richard T. Bobbe III, and then raised his right hand and formed a fist.
The quick verdict after two days of testimony appeared to be a rejection of the key witness against Howard: Alisa Davis, 40, his former girlfriend and the mother of his two children.
Davis accused Howard of agreeing to kill her estranged fiance, William Blount, 49. Her relationship with Blount soured when Howard returned to Philadelphia after being paroled from prison. Howard served about six years for a 2004 case in which he was convicted of shooting and critically wounding a Williamsport, Pa., man he caught in bed with his ex-wife in her Lycoming County apartment.
Davis, however, gave three conflicting statements to detectives before implicating Howard, and on the witness stand testified in a nonchalant monotone.
Davis, 40, was arrested in March 2015 and pleaded guilty nine months later to third-degree murder and conspiracy in Blount’s slaying. Davis, who did not have a plea deal with prosecutors, will be sentenced Thursday and faces 40 to 80 years in prison.
Assistant District Attorney Gail Fairman declined to comment on the verdict.
Bobbe said afterward that he expected Howard to be released from prison Thursday night.
“I’m thankful for the jury’s service,” Bobbe added. “For Mr. Howard, it’s been an odyssey of 15 months or more looking for justice, and I’m thankful he found it today.”
Bobbe said he was unsure if Howard’s arrest in the case would result in a violation of his parole in the 2004 shooting, for which Howard was sentenced to 5½ to 15 years in prison.
Howard, a city police officer for 13 years before his arrest in 2004, did not testify in his defense. The jury was not told about Howard’s earlier conviction.
On Easter 2014, Blount was in the driver’s seat of his 2000 Plymouth Voyager at 2:35 a.m., parked in the 3300 block of North 18th Street in Tioga -- about 25 yards from Davis’ house -- when someone fired seven or eight shots through the windshield, hitting him in the head.
No gun was recovered and no physical evidence linked Howard to the crime, just Davis’ testimony that she asked Blount to meet her there so Howard could ambush him.
Fairman argued that Howard returned to Philadelphia in 2011 after being paroled, hoping to reunite with Davis and their children. Instead, Howard found Davis engaged to Blount.
As the relationship between Blount and Davis soured, a series of arguments involving them and Howard continued until the shooting.
Fairman told the jury that Davis’ testimony was corroborated by phone records and text messages between her and Howard.
Bobbe, however, argued that contemporaneous text messages between Davis and another hopeful suitor meant that man could also have been the shooter.