- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2000

An FBI agent testified in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., yesterday that Dustin John "Bones" Higgs was consistently in trouble whether he was behind bars or not.

Testimony of those troubles is an aggravating factor to be considered by an all-male jury that will begin deciding today if Higgs, 28, of Laurel, Md., should be executed or sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The jury found Higgs guilty on Oct. 11 of kidnapping and murdering Mishann Chinn, 23; Tanji Jackson, 21; and Tamika Black, 19, on Jan. 27, 1996, on Route 197 in the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge.

Yesterday, FBI Agent L. Bradley Sheafe said jail records indicate Higgs seemed to always get in trouble while held in jails in Montgomery, Baltimore and Prince George's counties, in Maryland prisons and in a U.S. prison in Lewisburg, Pa.

Checking school, work and incarceration records back to 1992, Agent Sheafe said Higgs completed and passed only one class at Montgomery College in 1992 and worked briefly at a car rental agency and as a dietary aide. But the agent could not confirm that Higgs ever worked at a barber shop in Northwest D.C.

In jails, he was repeatedly disciplined for disobedience, talking too loudly, disorderly conduct, refusing to come in from an exercise yard, talking back and cursing guards, refusing to show his identification, throwing his identification on the ground at the feet of a guard, and taking extra portions of margarine from the food line.

Once, Higgs was stabbed in the back but refused to name his assailants. Later, he was charged with building a weapon from two sharpened toothbrushes and hiding it in his cell, according to jail records.

Violations of rules included refusal to complete a strip search, taking another inmate's identification and using it in the commissary, telling guards what to do with six bars of soap he kept improperly in his cell, fighting other inmates, beating and kicking an inmate, and throwing a cup of urine on an inmate, Agent Sheafe testified.

Cross-examined by defense attorney Timothy Sullivan, Agent Sheafe acknowledged that he only checked records and did not investigate incidents leading to the violations. Higgs was disciplined by losing privileges and credits for good time that could have resulted in early releases.

The jury also will consider mitigating factors such as Higgs' childhood, family background and other influences that might justify his participation in the kidnap-murders.

His aunt testified that Higgs was devastated when he was 10 and his mother died. The mother's sister, Constance McKinnon of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., said that Higgs began getting in trouble as a high school senior, and that she moved him to Takoma Park in 1991.

Higgs seemed to lose his work ethic, Mrs. McKinnon said, after receiving a $175,000 judgment from his mother's death. She said he spent the money on lawyers. Other witnesses said he dealt drugs, and perpetrated checking-account and store-credit-card scams.

In June, Willis Mark Haynes, 23, of Laurel was found guilty of the same kidnap-murders. When a jury could not agree on a penalty, Judge Peter J. Messitte sentenced Haynes to life in prison plus 45 years.

A key witness in both men's trials, Victor Gloria, pleaded guilty to the crimes. He testified Higgs invited the women to a gathering, angered Miss Jackson, put a pistol in his pocket, offered the women a ride home, stopped along the road, gave the gun to Haynes, who shot and killed the women.

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