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Suspect connected to Columbia death pleads for understanding

Asking a Boone County judge for understanding in his case, a man connected to a Columbia death explains some of his story in a letter.

The letter from Willie Lee-Jacari Higgins, obtained through public court records, asks Judge Kevin Crane to consider some of the circumstances Higgins said led up to him having the gun used in the death of Damian Davis in July. Higgins was arrested by Columbia police two days after the death, and charged with unlawful possession of a weapon and tampering with physical evidence.

Police listed Davis’ death as a homicide in a list of them provided to ABC 17 News through an open records request on Oct. 2. No one has been charged with murder or manslaughter in the case.

Higgins’ letter claims he did have the gun, and that he was on his way back to his home in Michigan. However, it wasn’t in an effort to conceal a crime, Higgins claimed. The gun was forced onto him by Davis’s friends, who threatened to hurt him and his family if he said anything to police about what happened.

A hearing in the case was moved back from Friday to Monday. Higgins’ attorney, David Wallis, declined to comment on the letter on Friday. Assistant prosecutor Stephanie Morrell also declined comment.

Higgins wrote that he and Davis were childhood friends. After the incident occurred at Davis’s apartment, Higgins said he planned to return to Michigan to be with his son before a planned surgery. When Davis’s friends got wind of that, Higgins said they pressured him into taking the gun and keeping silent about the incident to police.

Higgins claims he was not at the apartment when it happened.

“I’ve never been involved with guns or any of the crazy things that seem pretty natural around Columbia, so I believed they would kill me if I didn’t do what they told me and I had no one to consult or protect me,” Higgins wrote.

The two charges Higgins faces, both felonies, come with a maximum 11 years in prison combined. While Higgins said he wanted to plead guilty to be done with the case, the possibility of Judge Crane giving him prison time has stopped him.

“I honestly believe that…further incarceration will only ruin mine and my family’s lives,” he wrote. “If you find it in your heart to grant me probation, I will never make you or myself regret it.”

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