BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Friends and family of a late, celebrated French horn teacher are now speaking out after he was linked to a couple of sexual assaults in Tuscaloosa that had remained unsolved for decades before DNA testing confirmed his involvement.
In an extensive piece published in The Wall Street Journal Wednesday, reporter Dan Frosch profiled the case against Elliott Higgins, whom Tuscaloosa police linked to two sexual assaults between 1990 and 2001. The assaults occurred the same time that Higgins was a judge at the International Horn Competition held at the University of Alabama both years.
In Higgins’ reporting, the first assault that occurred in 1990 occurred after the victim, a student at the University of Alabama, reported that a man approached her, forced her into a car at knifepoint and raped her.
“Despite the victim’s description of the man and DNA recovered from the scene, investigators couldn’t identify a suspect,” Frosch wrote.
The second assault followed a similar pattern, Frosch reported.
“A decade later, roughly the same week of the year, a Tuscaloosa real-estate agent got a call to show a house to a man who said he had just moved to town with his wife and was getting a job at the university,” the story read. “After she arrived, the man, whom the agent described as older, balding and with red cheeks, produced a knife and sexually assaulted her, Capt. Kennedy said. Police were unable to collect DNA from that case or locate a suspect.”
Higgins’ daughter, Amber, told WSJ she was shocked when she heard the news of her father being linked to the crimes and that she wants to help the victims find closure.
“As my father, he was loving, devoted and seemed to be kind and morally upstanding,” she said. “I have been trying to wrap my mind around how it is possible that he could have had this other person hidden inside of him.”
However, others who knew Higgins were not so charitable in their description of the man.
“We were duped by a master manipulator and liar,” said Steve Gross, a noted French-horn player and board member of the International Horn Competition of America that Higgins cofounded.
Higgins died in 2014 and had never been considered a suspect in the sexual assaults in Tuscaloosa in his lifetime. That changed this past October, when the DNA from the crime scenes were sent to Parabon Labs, who linked him to the crimes.
Tuscaloosa police said that in addition to another sexual assault reported in Colorado in 2004, Higgins was also linked to other sexual assaults in the 1970s.