Nova Scotia

Accused in double-homicide dies before case goes to trial

It now appears no one will be brought to justice in a double-murder that took place in Sheet Harbour, N.S., five years ago after the sole person facing charges died.

Elmer Percy Higgins, 65, died on Sunday; he was due back in court today

Elmer Percy Higgins, 65, and Karen Marie Higgins, 49, were initially both charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of two men in December 2012. Charges against Karen were dropped earlier this month. (CBC)

It now appears no one will be brought to justice in a double-murder that took place in Sheet Harbour, N.S., five years ago after the sole person facing charges died.

The bodies of Matthew Hebb and Earle Steward were found in the burned-out remains of a hunting camp off Highway 374 on Dec. 12, 2012.

Their killings went unsolved until August of last year when Elmer Percy Higgins, 65, and his wife Karen Marie Higgins, 49, were each charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

But just last week, the Crown withdrew charges against Karen Higgins.

"Upon review of the evidence, in light of information that has come forward, the Crown assessed that we did not have a realistic prospect of conviction against Ms. Higgins," Crown prosecutor Mark Heerema said last week.

Elmer Higgins, who had been in failing health, died on Sunday. He was due back in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax today to begin the process for a judge and jury trial.

"It's a bitter pill to swallow because now there's never a chance that anybody's going to pay for what happened to my son," said Kirtley Beaver, Hebb's mother.

She said her family was told about Higgins's passing on Tuesday, as the family was still digesting the news that Karen Higgins would not be tried for her son's death.

Beaver said she doesn't believe this is the end of it.

"I personally think that there's still somebody else out there who was involved [in the killings]," she said. "There's just no way a sick old man could do this all by himself."

Beaver said the family was never told what evidence police had against either Higgins. She's hoping now they will learn exactly what happened.

The hardest part, she said, has been trying to explain to Hebb's eight-year-old son why his daddy wasn't coming home.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 40 years, the last 31 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at blair.rhodes@cbc.ca

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