Erick Howard: 'There's No One Else to Blame'

Howard, 20, of North Canton, was found guilty last week of committing a home invasion and rape. He was sentenced for those crimes Tuesday in Stark County Common Pleas Court.


The Erick Howard who , the Erick Howard who sat in shackles wearing a red jail jumpsuit and awaiting his sentence for a crime — it wasn't the Erick Howard that Don Hertler Jr. knew.

Hertler, head football coach for and friend of Howard, told Judge Taryn L. Heath about the young Erick Howard — a kid who got thrown into a detention center after fighting with someone who called him the N-word.

Howard's been fatherless since age 5 and has been a son to Hertler, who doesn't have kids of his own. Howard had spent nine months living with Hertler during his junior year of high school, when he began making a name for himself on the football field.

"Some kids need guidance more than others," Hertler said. "Erick was one of those kids."

Hertler and others spoke of Howard's good points Tuesday during his sentencing hearing. Heath doled out a 30-year sentence for Howard's involvement in an Aug. 20 home invasion and rape.

Howard, 20, of North Canton, broke into the a townhouse in the 1100 block of Sunford Avenue in North Canton in the early morning of Aug. 20. He and another man tied up a young couple with duct tape, and Howard raped the female resident by inserting a gun or his fingers in her vagina before leaving with their cash and cellphones.

A  of aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, rape and kidnapping, all carrying firearm specifications, after a three-day trial last week. Co-defendants Seth R. Obermiller, who helped rob the couple, and Michael A. Taylor, who served as the lookout that morning, both testified against Howard as part of a plea agreement.

Howard, a two-time Mr. Football recipient and all-star  football player, appeared in Stark County Common Pleas Court along with Defense Attorney Rufus Sims that day.

Hertler said Howard never was disrespectful to his teachers, nor was he boastful about his football success. What's more, he hadn't been in trouble other than his scuffle in middle school.

He said he hoped Howard could see his two children grow up and be released from prison and help others — something he's meant to do.

"I know our car rides. I know our experiences. I know our talks. And I know the passion in his heart to help people."

Howard addressed the judge before she read his sentence and told her he's sorry for the hurt he's cause the victims and everyone else involved in the attack.

"It's my fault," he said. "There's no one else to blame."

After reading his sentence of 30 years in prison, Heath said Howard also will be classified as a Tier III sex offender and, upon release from prison, will spend five years on probation for each first-degree felony offense (three offenses) and three years on probation for the kidnapping charge.

"(You've shown) no moral compass regarding your behavior," Heath said, adding that Howard not only robbed the couple that morning, but he robbed the female victim of her dignity.

Heath said the court could have sentenced Howard to 50 years in prison.

Here's how Howard's 30-year sentence breaks down: He received eight years in prison on each count of aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, rape and kidnapping. The first three run consecutively to one another, while the sentence for kidnapping runs concurrently. Heath merged four fire arm specifications into two. 


Rape Victim Testifies in Erick Howard Trial

Patricia Davis February 08, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Coach Hertler was a father to this young man! I am sorry for the pain Coach is suffering. There are many others who are suffering a silent pain for everyone involved. Erick was a hero to so many and now ....
Joe Rozsa February 08, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Father. No father. Mother. No mother. Makes no difference. It's completely obvious that this person isn't an idiot. He knew exactly what he was doing, believe that... he just figured he wouldn't get caught. It's unfortunate for all those that tried to help him better himself and what a wasted effort that was. I feel nothing for him and everything for the person who's life he so cruelly affected. He's lucky I wasn't the judge.
jim February 08, 2012 at 05:32 PM
30 years........looks like he will also be done making babies for a while..........
Ron Reolfi February 08, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Joe, My family invited a teenager, who came from a similar background as Erick's to live with us, and we mentored him for more than 2 years. While teaching him to drive, he took me to the projects where he grew up. He showed me the bullet holes in the side of the wall where he was shot at as a 6th grader. He showed me the apartment where the drug dealer lived who sold marijuana by the garbage bag. He showed me the middleschool, where he nearly died, because he used the wrong door on the first day of school and an 8th grade thug didn't like it. I asked him how the world he grew up in could be so different from where we live in North Canton, only 5 miles away. "Dads", he said, "There's no Dads down here." I'll never forget that. I too feel terribly for his victims, and I'm glad our society is holding Erick responsible for what he did, but don't underestimate the value of Moms and Dads.
Morgan Day (Editor) February 08, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Ron, thank you so much for the thoughtful comment.
Joe Rozsa February 08, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Ron... not underestimating in the least. In fact quite the opposite. Every child deserves to have parents and am truly grateful for mine. That's a great thing your student said about dads and I appreciate you sharing. What I'm saying is, take the parents or lack there of out of the equation. He absolutely knew what he was doing was wrong but did it anyway. Would a "proper' upbringing prevented that? No one can really say.
Kyla LeWay-Weisel February 09, 2012 at 08:29 AM
There's No One Else to Blame ?? Really?? I want to know more about him because right now I blame the school system. North Canton failed this kid in many ways. Top football star, could have gone to any Big Ten College, but no, the North Canton School system failed him. How does a great talent not become eligible due to academics, how do coaches and teachers not help this kid out? Did he have an IEP, did he get tutors, test read him? Did coach study with him and make sure he had grades that would get him where he needed to go? I'm assuming not. Not that he would not have made the same choices down the road, he might have. But did North Canton give him every opportunity and resource available to him to help him succeed? Thats a negative. We loved him as our Friday night star, and nothing more. So sad.
ABC February 09, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Kyla, I have to completely, but respectfully, disagree with your statement. As a recent Hoover graduate, a few years ahead of Erick, I traveled in the same circle of friends as Philip, Erick's older brother, and I saw, from day one, how resistant Erick was to the help he was given. Upon failing a freshman history course, he was repeatedly given the chance to redeem himself, but did not take it seriously even into his senior year. He had a wonderful chance given to him at Fork Union, a school Hertler no doubt helped him get into, but Erick dropped out and came back to North Canton. As a former student of the North Canton School system, I have no doubts that the school, and individual educators, went to all lengths to help him, but at the end of the day, a teacher is only a mentor, and cannot do for a student what he refuses to do for himself. I am almost offended that anyone would blame the school system, when it has churned out so many wonderful additions to society and has helped so many of us achieve our goals. These instructors have an obligation to guide, but there is only so much they can do for someone who refuses to be helped. It's a shame that Coach Hertler's efforts went to waste, as he is a wonderful, generous man, and I'm sure he's heartbroken over this news, but when it comes down to it, Erick Howard is a 20-year-old man who should have known better, and he was exactly right- there is no one else to blame.
smc February 10, 2012 at 04:44 PM
SMC Yes, Eric is responsible for all of his actions. But I am in aggreement that Hoover High School did not do enough. As far as the Coach doing all he needed to to do,Hoover and the Coach knows of the problems with drugs in that school. They also knew that Eric did them through his school years. Not a shock to anyone!! Why do you think he did not care enough? MY ADVICE TO HOOVER IS DRUG TEST ATHLETES! We are not a pay to play school it should be a requirement.
j.love November 27, 2012 at 07:18 AM
Wow, u all sound like idiots. Non of u KNOW Erick. He is my cousin. Growing up with Erick he had guidance. U all make it sound as if his father abandoned him & his mother was no good & his whole fate was left up to Hertler. His father passed away & even so he had a church going mother & a strong family system. The only reason he was living with his couch was to stay and play football in that racist ass town known as North Canton! His issues started then! Before that he wasn't being wreckless; it wasn't until all those people filled his head up to make him feel invinsible! Now I completely feel what he did was wrong but look at how fast his "friends" were to throw him under the bus. I'm pretty sure it wasn't his idea but yet he got 30years! How dare those 2 cowards set him up like that? They will still get 2 have a life but Erick won't. Classic though. Black hero in white area. That judge woulda gave him life for stealing a candy bar.
jim November 27, 2012 at 12:18 PM
j.love Not sure about NC "racist ass town" but NC is intolerant. Just simply state you are against something like a NC tax issue and you will be lynched with a chorus of love NC or leave NC.
Amelia Righthorn May 14, 2013 at 01:44 PM
It is not about race and it's ridiculous that's even being brought up. The other two should have gotten worse punishment- NO MATTER WHO'S IDEA IT WAS. They all essentially robed and violated that couple. Erick got what he deserved, he's actually lucky he didn't get 50 years. And the only reason people are talking about his family life is due to the previous articles with interviews with coach Hertler (who had received a DUI within the last couple years mind you- some mentor) stating that Erick lost his father young and that he lived with him his Junior year. No one ever said his whole family abandoned him- calm down. Erick was NEVER made to feel invisible. At least at the highschool he wasn't. I do fault the school for letting him get away with alot more than anyone else was allowed to just because he was the football star. But a school can only do so much. If you have hate in your heart that would lead you to do this then school officials can't help you. I attended school with Erick since elementary years. Though at times a bratand deffinately defiant, he was a really nice kid. It's sad to see him turn out this way. I feel for his family as well, Phillip was very nice.
Ann Marie May 14, 2013 at 06:23 PM
Wow isn't that the truth!!!


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