‘More than a terrible mistake’: Howard gets 15 to life for 2019 murder

LIMA — A Lima man will serve 15 years to life in prison for murder during a 2019 robbery.

Na’Zier Howard, 20, received a life sentence for the murder of Kevonta Cowan in December 2021, but will be eligible for parole after 15 years. He is currently serving a 14-year sentence for robbing Hermies Party Shop and Little Casesars in January 2020, which will be consecutive to his murder sentence.

The court room was full of Cowan’s loved ones, and Crime Victim Services read a statement from the man’s older sister. She said that Cowan “didn’t deserve to be killed in cold blood” and that Howard did not “deserve to be free.”

Public Defender Kenneth Sturgill said the incident occurred during a robbery in which one of the people Howard was with pulled out a gun and shot Cowan unexpectedly. He said of those involved, only Howard told investigators the truth about what had happened.

“He had the wherewithal — unlike everybody else — to be honest,” Sturgill said.

Sturgill said that Howard told investigators the group went to Cowan’s house to steal some marijuana and Howard took a gun from the home and about one pound of the drug. The lawyer argued that his sentences should be served concurrently because he was a minor during the offense and will have a chance to grow and change as a person.

Instead, Howard will finish his sentence for the January 2020 robbery before he begins serving 15 years to life for the murder.

When given the chance to speak, Howard apologized for the “pain and suffering I caused” and said it was a mistake he regrets.

But Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Reed said his actions were “more than a terrible mistake” and Howard planned to participate in several robberies. In February 2019 he was adjudicated in juvenile court for burglary, followed by the December 2019 incident in which Cowan was killed, which was then followed by the January 2020 party shop and pizza robbery.

“You’re going to play with guns, somebody’s going to get hurt,” Reed told Howard.

Howard will receive no jailtime credit, as he was being held on the January 2020 robbery when indicted on Cowan’s murder.