Dustin Higgs, Federal

 

January 16, 2021

Dustin John Higgs was executed by the federal government on Saturday, January 15, 2021. Dustin was pronounced dead at 1:23am local time, inside the execution chamber at the Federal Correction Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. His execution was delayed for several hours due to appeals. Dustin was 48 years of age. He was convicted of murdering 21-year-old Tanji Jackson, 19-year-old Tamika Black, and 23-year-old Mishann Chinn, on January 27, 1996, in Prince George County, in Maryland. Dustin has spent the last 20 years of his life on federal death row.

Dustin had a sad childhood. His father was uninvolved in his life and his mother died when he was 10 years old from cancer. He then went to live with extended family, where he experienced several deaths, some of which were violent. Dustin had to repeat second grade but was an average student throughout high school, where he was involved in sports and graduated at 19. At the time of his arrest, Dustin had a four-year-old son and was involved in the lives of relatives’ children.

 

On Friday, January 26, 1996, Dustin Higgs and Tanji Jackson had arranged for some of their friends to go out. Higgs brought Willie Mark Haynes and Victor Gloria to Tanji’s apartment, where she was waiting with Tamika Black and Mishann Chinn. The three couples went out, returning to Higgs’s apartment after buying alcohol. While at the apartment, the men smoked marijuana.

 

During the early morning hours of January 27, Higgs and Tanji began arguing. Tanji grabbed a knife from the kitchen. Haynes and Tamika heard the commotion and came out to break up the fight. Haynes talked to Tanji and got the knife away from her, however she was still mad and three woman left. Victor testified that Tanji made a threat as she left. Higgs saw Tanji appear to write down his license plate number as she left, and he thought she was going to retaliate against him.

 

Shortly thereafter, Higgs grabbed his coat and a weapon and told the two guys to come with him. They got into his van and found the woman walking on the side of the road. Higgs told the women to get into the vehicle and he began driving them towards Tanji’s apartment, however he drove past the exit to her apartment. Victor observed Higgs and Haynes have a whispered conversation during the drive.

 

Higgs instead drove to Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge, a federal property. Higgs pulled over at a scheduled spot and told the women to get out. One of the woman jokingly asked if they had to walk from there. Higgs replied, “something like that.” Victor observed Higgs hand his gun to Haynes and a few moments later heard a gunshot. Victor wiped the mist off the window and saw Haynes shoot one of the woman in the chest. Victor turned to Higgs and saw him watching the shooting from the mirror. Victor heard more shots before Haynes re-entered the vehicle. The gun was thrown from the window while over the Anacostia River as Higgs drove back to his apartment.

 

Upon returning to the apartment, the men wiped down every surface the woman may have touched and disposed of what they could. Higgs and Haynes dropped off Victor and warned him not to say anything. The bodies of Tanji Jackson, Tamika Black, and Mishann Chinn were found later that morning. Found at the scene was Tanji’s day planner, which had Higgs’s nickname and telephone number in it. Another page had Higgs’s address, license number and model of car that Higgs drove.

 

Higgs was the immediate suspect in the murder, however he was not arrested until three years later. When police first interviewed Higgs, he acknowledged knowing her and possibly even seeing her the night before she died, but denied that she had ever been to his apartment. Higgs says he learned of the deaths while attending a party and that he commented to another guest that he though he knew “that Tanji woman.” However, police did not release names and photographs of the victims to the media until the following day.

 

Higgs was eventually arrested on federal drug charges and on May 12, 1997, pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute, leaving him with a 17 year sentence. Higgs’s alibi for the night eventually fell apart when the woman he claimed to be with recanted her testimony. During the investigation, police also connected Higgs to two other shootings, one on November 20, 1995, outside Chaconia Nightclub, and another on December 10, 1995, at a home in Laurel, Maryland. In 1997, Higgs pled guilty to the latter murder, while the charges for the former shooting were dismissed.

 

On December 21, 1998, Higgs and Haynes were both indicted for the kidnapping and murder of the three women. Haynes was tried first and a jury was unable to reach an unanimous verdict for capital punishment resulting in him being sentenced to concurrent life terms for kidnapping and murder and a consecutive term of 45 years for a firearm offense. Higgs was tried next and received a sentence of death for each of the murders and kidnapping. The jury determined that Higgs had ordered the murders.

 

Pray for peace and healing for the families of Tanji Jackson, Tamika Black, and Mishann Chinn. Pray for the strength for the family of Dustin Higgs.

 

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