NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A beloved music teacher, remembered for his work mentoring hundreds of students in New Mexico, has now been identified as a serial rapist. Three cold case rapes spanning more than a decade and hundreds of miles have been traced back to New Mexico.
“Investigators from Colorado came to Tuscaloosa, investigators from Tuscaloosa went to multiple areas in the country,” authorities said in a press conference. For years, investigators have known the two attacks in Alabama and one in Colorado were connected. “They entered that into a database, the CODIS, it hit immediately on a sexual assault in Colorado Springs, Colorado,” authorities said.
The case garnered attention from the show America’s Most Wanted in 2007. That crime shared similarities with an attack three years earlier in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when a man, pretending to be in the market for a home, raped a realtor at knifepoint.
Ten years before that, in 1991, the first rape – also in Tuscaloosa – was when a 19-year-old University of Alabama student was attacked by a man with a knife on her way home. In all three cases, the victims gave similar descriptions of a man with distinctive red cheeks.
The perpetrator, investigators now say, was a well-known New Mexico music teacher. Elliott Higgins died in 2014 at age 73, but it wasn’t until now that genealogy research linked him to the crimes.
Higgins, a one-time conductor of the Albuquerque Philharmonic, also managed symphonies in California and Indiana and taught at his family’s business – the Hummingbird Music Camp in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. He founded the annual International Horn Competition, which was held at universities around the country.
At the time of both the Tuscaloosa rapes in 1991 and 2001, that competition was being held at the University of Alabama and Higgins was there as a judge. It turns out, Higgins also had a sexual assault record from the 1970s.
Task force detectives in Tuscaloosa County say they believe Higgins likely has more victims out there. “We don’t give up on these cases, and no matter what happens, we’re going to keep working them until we identify who you are,” officials said.
Tuscaloosa County investigators say they are sharing details of the case with communities where the horn competition was held, to see if any other cases match Higgins. There is no indication Higgins has been tied to any rape cases in New Mexico.