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Maryland man executed for 1996 triple murder

Nearly 2,000,000 people signed a petition asking the federal government not to execute Dustin Higgs, who was convicted of ordering the murder of three DC women.

BELTSVILLE, Md. — A Maryland man became the 13th and likely final person put to death by the Trump administration since it restarted federal executions in 2020. 

Dustin Higgs' lawyer, Shawn Nolan, told WUSA9 he was hopeful the Supreme Court would refuse to lift a stay -- but the court has allowed 12 other executions to go forward in the last six months. The Trump administration is asked the Supreme Court to let his execution move forward. Around 11 p.m. Friday, the Supreme Court allowed Higgs' execution to move forward in a brief, unsigned ruling.

Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonya Sotomayor dissented.

Higgs maintained his innocence in a particularly horrifying crime, and nearly two million people signed a petition calling for him to be spared.

Higgs was executed at 1:23 a.m. Saturday morning. 

On Jan. 27, 1996, a passing motorist found the bodies of three D.C. women on the side of Route 197 at the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge in Beltsville, Maryland. Tamika Black, 19, Tanji Jackson, 21, and Mishan Chinn, 23, had been shot in the chest and in the backs of their heads. 

On Oct.11, 2000, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland found Higgs guilty of numerous federal offenses, including three counts of first-degree premeditated murder, three counts of first-degree felony murder, and three counts of kidnapping resulting in death. The federal jury imposed nine death sentences on Higgs.

Tamika Black's mom said she had a premonition the last time she saw her. 

"It was too late then to keep her back," she told WUSA9 just after the murders 25 years ago. 

Higgs was not the triggerman. That was Willis Haynes, who got life in prison, not death.

"That question about proportionality has come up and continues to come up," Ngozi Ndulue of the Death Penalty Information Center said. 

"The last person standing in front of those young ladies was Willis Haynes," Higgs' trial lawyer, Harry Trainer, said in a video by the appellate that's been posted to Vimeo. "He's the one who pulled the trigger again and again and again." 

Higgs' son was born after his arrest. 

"He cares deeply for me," his son Da'Quan Darby said in two videos on Vimeo. "He always wants me to be on the right track. He doesn't want me to end up where he is."

Higgs was been on federal death row for 20 years. In that time, Maryland has done away with the death penalty. But because the women were murdered in a federal refuge, he could be executed by lethal injection at the federal prison in Terra Haute, Indiana.

Mishan Chinn's mother told WUSA9 she couldn't talk Friday, but in a sentencing hearing for Haynes, she said the family "is just shells of what we used to be."

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