June 22, 2017
Watchung Man Found Guilty in East Orange Murder of Teacher
Newark – Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino announced today that an Essex County jury has convicted Andre Higgs, 45, of Watchung of the murder of Latrena May, 27, a teacher at Pride Academy Charter School in East Orange.
Following a jury trial before the Honorable Ronald Wigler, the Essex County Presiding Criminal Court Judge, yesterday, the jury deliberated for less than two hours before finding Higgs guilty of the May 1, 2015 murder of May who was also the mother of his daughter.
In addition to murder, Higgs was convicted of unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and hindering prosecution.
Higgs shot May on the porch of the two-family house where she lived in East Orange after she flagged down a police car to help her. As the Detective exited his marked vehicle and approached, Higgs shot the victim three times. The Detective then returned fire and struck Higgs in the legs. After the shooting, Higgs barricaded himself in the house where the couple’s then four-year-old daughter was sleeping.
Assistant Prosecutor Justin Edwab, who tried the case, said, “Hopefully, the conviction of this defendant will allow the May family to begin the healing process and give them a measure of comfort.’’
Edwab praised the efforts of East Orange Detective Kemon Lee who tried to intervene and prevent this tragedy. At trial, the defense had argued that Lee’s actions caused Higgs to shoot the victim.
“This detective was a hero that day. He responded to May’s cries for help and tried to save her from Higgs,’’ said Edwab. “This conviction is the direct result of the investigative efforts of the Essex County Prosecutors Office and the East Orange Police Department as well as the courage of non-law enforcement who were willing to come into court and testify about the horrors they witnessed on the evening of May 1, 2015.”
After the jury returned a verdict of guilty for the murder of May, Judge Wigler revoked Higgs’ bail.
On Friday, the jury will returned to try the second indictment against Higgs for this May 1, 2015 incident. The second indictment charges Higgs with Second Degree Certain Persons not to Have a Weapon and First Degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon. He was found guilty of the charges in that indictment as well. Sentencing has been scheduled for Sept. 7. before Judge Wigler.
Higgs faces 30 years to life when he sentenced by Judge Wigler.
In March of 2015, just a couple weeks before her death, May called 911 when Higgs entered her home, choked her and threw her to the ground in front of her daughter. As a result of the defense arguing that the May 1, 2015 shooting was an involuntary act on behalf of Higgs, the Court allowed the 911 recording to be entered into evidence to prove Higgs state of mind.
Higgs has five prior felony convictions. In 1993, the defendant was sentenced to New Jersey State Prison for four different cases. The four different cases included convictions for unlawful possession of a gun, second degree aggravated assault, and a drug offense. The defendant received an aggregate sentence of 10 years in New Jersey State Prison. In 2003, the defendant was again convicted of unlawful possession of a handgun where he received 226 days in the Essex County Jail plus 18 months probation.