TAMPA — A 61-year-old lawyer was found dead in a gated northwest Hillsborough subdivision Friday and the Sheriff's Office called it a homicide.
Lawrence Paul Higgins, a horse lover who lived at 11523 Trotting Down Drive in Odessa, died of trauma to the upper torso, the Sheriff's Office said.
A business associate discovered Higgins while checking on him and called deputies to the home about 9:50 a.m.
Nearly 12 hours later, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter alerted the media and said the Medical Examiner's Office had determined Higgins' death was a homicide.
Carter did not identify the business associate who found him.
Family members could not be reached.
Public records show Higgins spent many years working and living in the Washington, D.C., area.
He and his wife, Susan, own a $740,000 house in Citrus Green II, according to the Hillsborough property appraiser's Web site.
Hillsborough Court records show Higgins filed for divorce on May 30, but the outcome is unclear.
John McGovern Jr. of Severna Park, Md., said he knew Higgins for 15 years. He said Higgins practiced life insurance law in Washington, D.C., before relocating to Florida.
Higgins was chief executive of Icarus Aircraft, which provides blimps and flying crews. Customers of the Delaware company include high-profile corporations such as Liberty Mutual, MetLife and Outback Steakhouse, according to its Web site.
He was also executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.
Board member Kathy Guciardo said Higgins had been a member of the organization for more than 20 years. As a lawyer, he helped jockeys and trainers in contract negotiations with racing organizations.
She remembers the Kentucky Derby cap he wore. It lit up and made people smile.
"He was really into horses and he went to Washington a lot because I think he had horses up in Washington," she said.
In his spare time, he traveled racetracks across the country, where he bet about $1-million a year, according to a recent article in the Thoroughbred Times.
"I want information, and I want integrity," he told the publication, describing his gambling philosophy.
Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or email@example.com.