Cops Say Renowned Music Teacher Was a Serial Rapist

Elliott Higgins, late founder of New Mexico music camp, called 'master manipulator and liar'
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2023 9:35 AM CST
'We Were Duped by a Master Manipulator and Liar'
Stock image of a French horn.   (Getty / yu-ji)

Elliott Higgins was 73 when he died in 2014. At the time he was a respected French horn teacher who had run a music camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and even conducted the Albuquerque Philharmonic. But in October 2022, DNA and genetic genealogy linked Higgins—who had never been a suspect—to at least three sexual assaults that occurred between 1991 and 2004 in Alabama and Colorado, including two rapes. In the 1991 assault, a student said a man with a knife approached her and forced her into a car, then raped her. Investigators never identified a suspect in that case, and a decade later, a real-estate agent reported she’d been sexually assaulted by a man claiming he was new in town. Both of those assaults occurred in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The Wall Street Journal reports that on reinvestigating the Tuscaloosa assaults, Alabama authorities turned to CeCe Moore, chief genetic genealogist for Parabon NanoLabs—a Virginia company that has made a name for itself by helping law enforcement with its DNA phenotyping services. According to Fox News, Moore said this case was "unique," in that Parabon "definitely had to dig in to his life more to see why he might have been at these locations. So, when we discovered that it was because he was involved in children's music, camps and competitions, it was horrifying." Parabon zeroed in on Higgins after uploading cold case DNA to genealogy websites and discovering close matches. Then researchers assembled public records to build a family tree reaching back generations. Ultimately they narrowed their search to two men, Higgins and his brother.

Additional testing eliminated the late musician's brother as a suspect. Higgins' daughter reacted with shock on learning her father was linked to the crimes. "As my father," Amber Higgins said, "he was loving, devoted and seemed to be kind and morally upstanding. 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." The Journal quoted a similar reaction from noted French horn player and colleague Steve Gross: "We were duped by a master manipulator and liar." (Read the Journal story in full.)

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