March 14, 2014
After a year of waiting, it took a jury four hours to deliver the answer the Bouwman family has been waiting for: Javonte Higgins is guilty of murder.
“Javonte Higgins is the lowest form of humanity we can have here on God’s green earth,” said Tom Kelly, son-in-law of murder victims David and Vivian Bouwman, the Kentwood couple shot to death at the ages of 81 and 80.
Kelly spoke in the hallway of the downtown courthouse on Monday, March 10, moments after the verdict was delivered finding Higgins guilty of two counts of felony murder, home invasion and using a firearm during a felony.
Last week, the Kent County Circuit Court jury listened to evidence and testimony regarding the brutal murders of Bouwmans, who were slain in their Princeton Estates home overnight on Jan. 5, 2013.
Chief Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Christopher Becker called more than 40 witnesses, enough to convince the jury that 23-year-old Javonte Higgins broke into the elderly couple’s home and then killed the unarmed, elderly pair with point-blank gunshots to the head.
There was no physical evidence linking Higgins to the crime scene, but Becker constructed a circumstantial case to show the jury that Higgins had a predilection for home invasion in and around the neighborhood where the murders occurred.
Becker also produced a witness, Higgins’ best friend, who said the defendant had a gun prior to the murders and that after the murders Higgins allegedly told his friend “I killed some people.”
Throughout the case, jurors asked an unusually high number of questions of witnesses. Those questions were read by Judge Mark Trusock to the witnesses.
Becker said he believes the frequent questions may have helped the jury reach its decision sooner than if they had waited to address those questions after the arguments were heard.
“They wanted to be careful,” Becker said of the jury.
Why Higgins felt it was necessary to kill the elderly couple is a question only the defendant can answer, Becker said.
Defense attorney Valarie Foster told the jury that while her client stole the Bouwman’s 2001 Cadillac – which was then torched – it was someone else that killed the senior citizens.
Foster said the case will be appealed based on a number of issues, including one witness’ spontaneous revelation that Higgins had been in prison prior to his arrest for the murders. Foster contends that revelation could have tainted the jury.
As he has throughout the trial, Higgins remained passive upon hearing the verdict that will send him to prison for all his natural life after he serves two years behind bars for the felony firearm charge.
Higgins will be sentenced on April 3.
The Bouwman family — including siblings, children and grandchildren – filled the courtroom every day of the trial. When the verdict was read, some smiled and some dabbed away tears.
“Finally, we can get on with our lives and have some healing and closure,” said Kelly, adding that the trial left him emotionally and physically exhausted.
Kelly said Higgins got exactly what he deserved. The victims’ son-in-law speculated about how the Bouwmans would have handled the situation.
“I’m sure they’d have forgiveness in their heart,” he said.
Javonte Higgins gets charged with the crime in 2013: