- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2011

VERNON, CONN. (AP) - The man who fatally stabbed University of Connecticut football player Jasper Howard during an on-campus fight in 2009 tearfully apologized to Howard’s family Friday as he was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

John Lomax III, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit with his hands and feet shackled, sobbed loudly as he told Howard’s family that he regretted what he did.

“I know it hurts. I know it hurts,” Lomax said to Howard’s relatives and friends in a courtroom packed with more than 70 people. “I would never want this to happen to any family. Even though you may despise me, I don’t despise you. We’re all God’s children. I don’t hate y’all. I love y’all.”

The 22-year-old Lomax, of Bloomfield, had been charged with murder, but pleaded no contest to first-degree manslaughter in January. He had faced up to 20 years in prison.

Investigators believe the fight started over a comment a player made about a woman. Howard died of a single stab wound.

Rockville Superior Court Judge Terence Sullivan noted that Lomax had no previous criminal record, had a job and supported his child.

“You’re really not a bad person, but you’ve done a very, very bad thing,” Sullivan told Lomax. “You took the life of Jasper Howard … and there was no reason for it. In taking his life, you took from him and his family all that he was … and all the things he could have been.”

Howard’s mother, Joanglia Howard, of Miami, Fla., was at first too emotional to speak, but she gathered herself and told the judge that Jasper, a 20-year-old junior cornerback for the Huskies, dreamed of playing in the NFL.

“My son was taken from me,” Joanglia Howard said. “He didn’t do nothing to nobody. Just took his life for no reason. My heart is torn apart. I miss my baby so much.”

Jasper Howard’s girlfriend was pregnant when he died, and family members were sad that he was never able to see his daughter, who is nearing her first birthday.

For Howard, whose nickname was Jazz, home was an apartment in a rough neighborhood near Miami’s Edison High School. His friends say he dreamed of making life better for his mother and two sisters.

“Jazz was uplifting and a loving, caring person,” Sio Moore, who was Howard’s teammate for two years, said as he read a letter he wrote with other UConn players. “You never saw Jazz without a smile. Each and every day, we remember his life.”

State’s Attorney Matthew Gedansky read a letter from former UConn coach Randy Edsall, who left the school in January to take the head coaching job at Maryland.

Edsall rushed to the hospital after Howard was stabbed and was the one who had to identify his body.

“I was devastated. As I stood over Jazz, I prayed for all the people his life touched,” Edsall wrote. “There aren’t words to describe the emotions that took over at that moment.”

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