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06:45 AM PDT on Friday, April 14, 2006
EUGENE, Ore. -- A race car driver was convicted of killing the husband of a woman with whom he was having an affair.
Derek Ofenham, 22, of Springfield is scheduled to be sentenced Monday in Lane County. The conviction carries a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for at least 25 years.
Ofenham told Eugene police he had been planning for weeks to kill Mark Howard, 50, a popular race car builder. Ofenham had been having an affair with Howard's wife, 49-year-old Janet Howard, for more than a year and he killed the husband to "get him out of the way," according to court documents.
Howard was found dead inside his Eugene auto shop on Oct. 7. Investigators found five .22-caliber bullet casings near Howard's body. An autopsy determined that he had been shot three times in the head, once in the upper torso and once in the hand.
Janet Howard, who had been married for 20 years, told police that her husband learned of her infidelity about two months before the shooting.
A judge last month ruled that Ofenham's confession to police could be used as evidence in his trial, which had been scheduled to begin next week.
Ofenham, in a deal to avoid the trial, agreed with facts presented by Deputy Lane County District Attorney Bob Lane in court Thursday and was convicted before Lane County Circuit Judge Karsten Rasmussen.
Howard was well-known at the Cottage Grove Speedway, where he fixed and fueled the cars of circle-track racers. Friends described him as a hard worker and a devoted father to his two daughters. He was killed while working on a race car for his 17-year-old daughter, April.
Hundreds of mourners gathered at Cottage Grove Speedway for a memorial service a week after his death. April Howard drove that same car around the track, her father's casket following behind in a hearse.
"He would have wanted to take a last lap before leaving this world," Russell Leach, co-owner of the speedway, told the Register-Guard newspaper last October. "Racing has been Mark's whole life."