KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) - The suspect in the murders of a Kentwood couple avoided jail after a December 2012 police chase and subsequent crash.
Javonte Higgins, 22, led police on a chase and then crashed a stolen pickup truck into a tree in the 1700 block of Gentian Drive in Kentwood on Dec. 10, police said. He had to be extricated from the vehicle and was hospitalized with broken bones among other critical injuries.
That truck belonged to Michele and George Davis. The truck was stolen after Higgins allegedly broke into their home while they were there and stole their truck's keys.They thought he was caught and off the streets.
"I said, 'Oh my God, our truck's gone,'" Michele recalled after a police officer informed her of the theft and wreck.
The last that George and Michele Davis knew, Higgins was in a hospital and recovering from critical injuries. They were shocked to learn he walked away from that hospital and now stands accused in the murders of David and Vivian Bouwman.
"I feel bad for the couple and their families," said George. "He should have been detained at least to the point where he couldn't leave the hospital."
At first, the Davises thought Higgins had died in the wreck. When they learned he had survived, they were assured he would go nowhere but prison after leaving the hospital.
And they initially thought they would want to reach out to the man accused of stealing their truck.
"I just wanted to let him know that I forgave him," said Michele.
But then they learned of his laundry list criminal history, including previous convictions for home invasion and car theft.
"I thought for certain he wouldn't be out on the street," said George.
"I just assumed there'd be somebody outside his room," added Michele.
Wyoming police said they tried to get a warrant to arrest Higgins at the time, but couldn't.
The Kent County Prosecutor's Office told 24 Hour News 8 Monday that a warrant wasn't issued while Higgins was in the hospital because that would have forced the County to pay for his medical bills and a guard.
Instead, police asked the hospital staff to call them before Higgins was discharged.
Higgins decided on his own, against doctors' orders, police say, to walk out of the hospital. Police said the hospital staff did call them, but that he left in a taxi before they could get there.
"They did everything possible that they could," said Wyoming Police Chief James Carmody. "There's only one person responsible for the deaths of those people and that person will be held responsible. The officers did their job and they followed through as far as they could do within the legal limits of the law."
A warrant wasn't written until after Higgins disappeared.
Higgins is now a suspect in the Jan. 5 killings of 81-year-old David Bouwman and his 80-year-old wife Vivian inside their home. After they were killed, their 2001 Cadillac DeVille was stolen, driven four miles to a Wyoming apartment complex, doused with an accelerant and set on fire.
Kentwood police believe Higgins is still in the Grand Rapids area. He is described as a 5-foot-6, 160-pound black man with black hair and brown eyes. He now walks with a severe limp as a result of the December wreck.
The investigation continues and the reward for information that leads to a conviction is now up to $9,500. Anyone with information is asked to call Kentwood police at 616.698.6580 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.
Correction: 24 Hour News 8 initially inaccurately reported that "Wyoming police said they did not put a guard on Higgins because his crime wasn't considered violent." The statement should not have been attributed to police. In actuality, Wyoming police were not and would not have been responsible for guarding Higgins in the hospital.
Because prosecutors decided it was not necessary that Higgins be placed into custody immediately, a warrant was not immediately authorized and jail staff were not requested to stay with him at the hospital. We regret the error.
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