Decades after assaults, new technology helped identify man who may have been responsible
After decades of cold case limbo, new technology advances have finally given several sexual assault victims the closure they deserve.
The Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit on Thursday said the cases, which happened in 1991 and 2004 in Tuscaloosa County and in 2004 in El Paso County, Colorado, were connected after samples of the suspect’s DNA from the 1991 case was submitted by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences to Parabon NanoLabs in October 2021.
After the lab come up with a potential suspect, further investigation determined the man was behind the crimes, investigators said. DNA testing, investigators said, confirmed the man is the person responsible for the crimes with more than 99.999% probability.
The suspect, Elliott L. Higgins of Jemez Springs, New Mexico, died in 2014, according to his obituary in the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper.
Higgins was a college-level music teacher who played the French horn, and his family operated a youth music camp in Jemez Springs called the Hummingbird Music Camp.
Investigators found Higgins had a criminal record of sexual assaults dating back to the 1970s. During that time, Higgins helped found and then participated as a judge at the annual International Horn Competition.
The competition was held at universities across the U.S., and was held at the University of Alabama the same year and week as the Tuscaloosa County assaults in 1991 and 2004, and investigators confirmed through competition records that Higgins was present in Tuscaloosa the years of the assaults in question.
Higgins had no connection to Tuscaloosa other than the competition.
Investigators said they believe Higgins may have committed similar violent assaults across the country throughout his lifetime, and they encourage anyone else who may have been a victim to contact the appropriate police jurisdiction.