Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Friends, neighbors mourn man found slain at home

ODESSA — Bright yellow crime scene tape fluttered in the wind at 11523 Trotting Down Drive on Tuesday, a strange sight in a place where countryside mansions blend into a landscape of white fences, horse farms and fish ponds.

Larry Higgins often sat here on his porch, watching the sunset and keeping an eye on his koi.

"He loved his front porch," said friend and neighbor Karen Duffey, whose husband helped build Higgins' 3,575-square-foot home four years ago.

Higgins, a 61-year-old lawyer and horse racing aficionado, was discovered dead inside his prized home on Friday, and deputies called it a homicide.

"He was really a very generous, kind, wonderful individual," Duffey said, her eyes tearing.

Few in the Citrus Green subdivision are used to the sight of the crime scene unit van. Sheriff's investigators haven't left in four days. Neighbors say they searched Higgins' large pond, which he dubbed "Lake Bubba" after his son's nickname. On Tuesday, they scoured the property surrounding the $740,000 home, looking for evidence. Two deputies remain outside the house.

"There's been a murder, hasn't there?" neighbor Linda Martin remembered asking one deputy on Friday when she first saw the commotion across the street.

The Sheriff's Office has released little information. Spokeswoman Debbie Carter said Tuesday that Higgins had been out of touch with his friends and family for a few days before a business associate found him dead.

At first, she said, investigators weren't sure he was the victim of a homicide. But a medical examiner said the trauma to Higgins' upper torso indicated someone else was involved, Carter said.

Higgins, who practiced law in Washington, D.C., before moving to Florida, divorced in June.

He owned race horses and ran Icarus Aircraft, which provided blimp advertising to companies including Outback Steakhouse and Liberty Mutual.

When he filed for divorce in May against Susan Courter, his wife of 14 years, he agreed to give her a one-time payment of $35,000 if she would give up her right to future support from him, public documents show.

Courter, a homemaker with no independent income, according to court records, didn't challenge the offer. When they finalized their divorce and split their belongings, Courter left the marriage with almost $1-million in assets including cash, real estate, stocks and bonds, life insurance and personal property.

Neighbors said she has since moved out of state. She could not be reached by the Times on Tuesday.

A man who answered the phone belonging to daughter Kimberly Higgins on Tuesday said the family wasn't ready to talk.

Martin, who has lived in Citrus Green for two years, said she'd recently walked with Higgins around the 2-mile circle that is Trotting Down Drive. He was still reeling from divorce, she said.

"He kept saying, 'When does it stop?' " Martin said. "I said, 'Give it about a year. You'll feel better.' "

But he seemed to be making some good of the situation, jogging and walking to lose weight.

"You're fading away to nothing!" Tampa Bay Downs spokeswoman Margo Flynn joked with him when she last saw him on Tuesday about 4:30 p.m.

Flynn said Higgins, who served on the board of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, had been watching horse races on simulcast.

He joked about the stock market and told her he was looking forward to attending an upcoming Eagles concert out of state.

Back in Citrus Green, Duffey looked across her property Tuesday toward Higgins' home.

She and her husband were inspired by Higgins to dig a pond of their own. But when they had trouble keeping the fish alive, Higgins brought them a gift of eight koi.

"He was a good man," she said. "He didn't deserve this."

Times researchers Shirl Kennedy and John Martin contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3383.

Friends, neighbors mourn man found slain at home 10/14/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 14, 2008 11:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Fox renewed O'Reilly contract despite knowing of allegations

    Nation

    NEW YORK (AP) — The Fox News Channel says the company knew a news analyst planned to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O'Reilly when it renewed the popular personality's contract in February.

    Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly appears on the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel in April following reports that several women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. [Associated Press file]
  2. Conviction overturned 30 years later in neo-Nazi murder case

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A judge on Friday overturned the murder conviction of Dean McKee now that new evidence has raised doubt about McKee's guilt in a Tampa slaying that occurred nearly three decades ago when he was 16.

    In 1987, a St. Petersburg Times reporter interviewed Dean McKee for a story about young skinheads in Tampa. [Times | 1987]
  3. Experts have some theories on who's carrying out Seminole Heights killings

    Crime

    The words serial killer tend to conjure an image of a middle-aged white man, likely a loner. He stabs or chokes or strangles, murdering up close for the thrill, straight out of central casting.

    A memorial was set up where Anthony Naiboa, 20, was found shot to death in Seminole Heights. Some experts who have reviewed information in the case say that whoever is behind the three Seminole Heights killings may live in the area. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  4. Late fumble, field goal send Florida State to another loss

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher didn't have an explanation for the turning point in Saturday's 31-28 last-second loss to Louisville.

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson gets past Florida State's Matthew Thomas to score in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Tallahassee Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) FLSC102
  5. Funeral starts for soldier at center of Trump fight

    Military

    COOPER CITY, Fla. (AP) — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102