Jaime Wagers was sentenced to 40 years in prison on Friday, Oct. 4, for the brutal 2012 murder of 20-year-old Clarkson native Christian Higdon.
Referring to Wagers as “someone who society needs to be protected from,” Hardin County Judge Ken Howard sentenced the 25-year-old convicted killer to 40 years in prison. He added that due to the likelihood that Wagers would commit additional crimes if released on probation, he “would not consider [probation] in this case.”
Despite the fact that Wagers, who is documented to suffer from schizophrenia, maintained at a hearing last month that he was not competent to stand trial, Judge Ken Howard declared that the evidence at hand showed Wagers to be competent to face the charges of murder, tampering with evidence, and violation of a protective order.
Bystanders in the courtroom were visibly emotion, and Cindy and Dennis Higdon, the parents of the slain man, each took the opportunity to speak.
Her voice strained, Cindy Higdon said, “I want to see justice done.”
She recounted how her son, after being bludgeoned with the blunt side of a hatchet by Wagers, lived for fifteen minutes, during which time she said he continued to flee from Wagers’ advances.
She asked Wagers, “Do you have any idea how scared he had to have been during that time?”
She sobbed as she told the courtroom the story of the last woman to see her son alive, and how he had asked her, “Please, if I die, will you tell my family I love them?”
“Our whole family is torn apart by this,” she said, “[Christian’s] son will grow up wondering what it’s like to have a daddy.”
When the time came for Dennis Higdon to speak, he stood slowly and turned to face his son’s killer. “I do not want you to die. I do not want you to go to hell. I don’t want that for anyone,” he began, adding, “But every time you hear that metal door snap shut for the next forty years, I hope you think about my wife and my family.”
As Dennis Higdon spoke, Wagers smiled and whispered to his attorney, eventually erupting in a belligerent outburst that brought three armed deputies to stand at the ready near the defendant.
“He was in my house,” Wagers shouted at Higdon, though an emergency protective order had banned Wagers from the residence in question at the time the killing occurred.
Of the crime, the judge said, “There is no understanding. It is futile and it is frustrating to even try.”
Minutes after the sentencing was handed down, the Higdon family gathered outside of the courtroom, hugging each other with tears in their eyes.
Wagers’ mother, Stephanie Murray, gave them their distance, but told a News-Gazette correspondent, “I told the Higdon family I truly am sorry, and I am. God be with them all.”
Wiping at her own tears, she said of her son, “He’s all I have. Forty years is a long time.”