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Huskies resuming practice after cornerback's death

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[October 20, 2009]  STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- As the University of Connecticut football team prepares to take the practice field for the first time since its starting cornerback was killed, police still haven't said who they think fatally stabbed him during a fight outside a school dance over the weekend.

The Huskies will resume practicing on Tuesday, two days after 20-year-old Jasper Howard's death, said coach Randy Edsall.

Hardware"It'll be good for us to be getting back on the practice field ... back to a little bit of normalcy with what we have to do," Edsall said.

Meanwhile, an attorney for a Bloomfield man said Monday he expected his client to be arrested in the stabbing death, as police continued to sort out what happened.

The attorney, Deron Freeman, declined to identify his client but said the man and several others got into a fight "with about six" UConn football players early Sunday. Freeman said his client did not stab Howard but was present when Howard was mortally wounded.


Another man, 21-year-old Johnny Hood, of Hartford, was arraigned Monday on charges of interfering with an officer and breach of peace. But he has not been charged in Howard's death, and police haven't named a suspect.

Freeman said police had searched and removed some items from his client's home and told him his client and others will be arrested.

"(Police) have indicated to me that they expect to get a warrant for his arrest," he said. "I'm not sure if I would say that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I could say that he was not involved in the actual stabbing of Mr. Howard."

Authorities said Hood gave a false name when he was questioned. His bond initially was set at $100,000, but that was reduced Monday to $10,000.

Hood's attorney, Justin Freeman, said at the arraignment that his client is a full-time dental assistant and a part-time student at Capitol Community College, who was "at the wrong place at the wrong time," and did not even know a homicide had occurred.

Deron Freeman, who is Justin Freeman's brother, wouldn't say if his client knows Hood.

Another UConn player, Brian Parker of Sarasota, Fla., pointed Hood out to police at the scene. Parker, 19, a sophomore wide receiver who is academically ineligible to play this season, also was stabbed but suffered only minor injuries.

The state medical examiner's office said Monday that Howard died from a single stab wound to the abdomen.

Howard was a junior who had come to UConn to get away from the violence on the streets of his hometown of Miami. He was the first in his family to go to college.

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Nursing Homes

UConn police Maj. Ron Blicher said Howard was mortally wounded during a fight between two groups that included students and non-students. The fight broke out just after a fire alarm went off in a student center, forcing around 300 people to evacuate from a party and dance sponsored by the school's West Indian Awareness Organization.

The violence came less than 12 hours after UConn's 38-25 homecoming victory over Louisville. Edsall identified Howard's body at a Hartford hospital Sunday morning.

Teammates and friends on Monday placed candles and flowers at the spot where Howard was killed, along with a poster that included the words "Live 365" next to pictures of Howard playing football and having fun. Outside the team's football complex, dozens of athletes and other students joined hands as punter Desi Cullen, a team captain, led them in prayer.


"Value the breath you breathe," he told the crowd. "Value every day you wake up."

The team will wear a sticker with Howard's initials on its helmets for the rest of the season and will carry his helmet or jersey to away games, Edsall said.

The coach said he doesn't know if two teammates who helped Howard after he was stabbed and bleeding will play when the Huskies visit Big East foe West Virginia on Saturday. "I'll honor whatever decision they want to make," he said.

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said plans are in the works to honor Howard at Saturday's game.

[Associated Press; By PAT EATON-ROBB]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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